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Motorcycle helmet laws by state

Even if your state doesn’t require you to wear a helmet, doing so can save your life and help you save money.

Updated

Without the protection a car offers, motorcycle riders and passengers are more likely to sustain a severe injury than riding inside a car. But there is a way to lessen the damage.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motorcycle helmets reduce the risk of death by up to 42%. And states without motorcycle helmet laws often have higher insurance rates due to higher risk.

Motorcycle helmet laws by state

In 1975, all but three states had universal helmet laws stating all motorcycle riders were required to wear helmets. But through the years, that number has dwindled. Currently, only 19 states have universal laws, three states have no helmet requirements and 28 states have partial laws for specific riders that are required to wear a helmet, usually those under ages 18 or 21.

StateUniversal lawPartial law
Alabama
AlaskaRequired to age 17
Required for passengers of all ages
Required for drivers with learning permits
ArizonaRequired to age 17
ArkansasRequired to age 20
California
ColoradoRequired to age 17, drivers and passengers
ConnecticutRequired to age 17
Delaware
FloridaRequired to age 20
Age 21+ must carry proof of medical insurance to ride without a helmet
Georgia
HawaiiRequired to age 17
IdahoRequired to age 17
IllinoisNo law
IndianaRequired to age 17
IowaNo law
KansasRequired to age 20
KentuckyRequired to age 20
Required for drivers with learning permits
Louisiana
MaineRequired to age 17, both drivers and passengers
Required for drivers with learning permits
Passengers of all ages must wear a helmet if the driver is wearing one
Maryland
Massachusetts
MichiganRequired to age 20
To ride without a helmet, those age 21+ must carry additional insurance and pass a motorcycle safety course or have had their motorcycle endorsement for at least two years
MinnesotaRequired to age 17
Required for drivers with learning permits
Mississippi
Missouri
MontanaRequired to age 17
Nebraska
Nevada
New HampshireNo law
New Jersey
New MexicoRequired to age 17
New York
North Carolina
North DakotaRequired to age 17
Passengers of all ages must wear a helmet if the driver is wearing one
OhioRequired to age 17
Required for drivers in their first year of licensure
Passengers of all ages must wear a helmet if the driver is wearing one
OklahomaRequired to age 17
Oregon
PennsylvaniaRequired to age 20
Rhode IslandRequired to age 20
Required for all passengers
Required for drivers in their first year of licensure
South CarolinaRequired to age 20
South DakotaRequired to age 17
Tennessee
TexasRequired to age 20
Age 21+ must carry proof of medical insurance or complete a safety course to ride without a helmet
UtahRequired to age 20
Vermont
Virginia
Washington
West Virginia
WisconsinRequired to age 17
Required for drivers with learning permits
WyomingRequired to age 17

Penalties for riding without a helmet

Each state’s helmet laws vary, as do the penalties for riding without a helmet when one is required. For example, violation of the helmet law in California is considered an immediate safety hazard, and riders may be subject to a $250 fine and one year of probation. In contrast, in Connecticut, the fine is only $90. Make sure to fully understand the consequences in your state before you decide to go without a helmet.

How do helmet laws affect motorcycle insurance?

Motorcycle insurance can be more expensive than car insurance because of the risks involved — riding a motorcycle risks more serious injuries than driving a car. But insurance rates can go even higher in states where helmets aren’t mandated for the following reasons:

  • Motorcycle crash injuries are expensive. Failing to wear a helmet can lead to more serious injuries and claims, such as head injuries. The hospital bills are compounded by rehabilitation costs, property damages, lost wages and insurance costs. A 2012 Government Accounting Office report found that in 2010, motorcycle accidents cost $16 billion in direct costs, a statistic that definitely hikes insurance rates.
  • State insurance requirements can vary. A few states require riders to prove they have high levels of insurance before they are allowed to ride without a helmet. For example, Michigan requires a rider carry proof of $200,000 medical coverage, or personal injury protection (PIP), on their motorcycle insurance in order to ride without a helmet, which can increase your insurance rate.
  • Uninsured riders raise rates. NHTSA found that helmetless riders are less likely to carry insurance, which can raise insurance rates for everyone in the state, even those who choose to wear a helmet.
  • Mandatory helmet laws save money. In addition to being safer, a 2010 CDC report found that state helmet laws saved insurance companies more than $3 billion and an additional $1.4 billion could have been saved if everyone who had gotten in an accident that year had worn a helmet.
  • Violating helmet laws could raise your rates. If you get into an accident and don’t wear a mandated helmet, your insurance can find that you were partially or completely at fault for your own injuries and refuse to pay the claim. And if a helmet violation comes up on your drivers record, your insurance premium can go up.

How much do motorcycle helmets cost?

Helmets come in a range of prices, from as little as $50 to over $1,000. On average, a decent quality helmet may cost $100 to $150. But the highest safety-rated helmets are full-face helmets, which offer additional protection for your jaw and chin and may be more expensive.

If you decide to go with a more expensive, top-of-the-line helmet, your motorcycle insurance will only replace it with a new one up to a certain amount if you’re in an accident that damages your helmet.

Regardless of how much you’re willing to spend, look for a certification sticker stating the helmet meets the minimum safety standards put out by the US Department of Transportation (DOT). You may also consider looking for a helmet that meets both the DOT requirements and Snell Foundation standards for the maximum possible safety rating.

Bottom line

Your safety is reason enough to wear a motorcycle helmet while you ride.
But if you need more incentive, knowing the laws in the states where you ride can keep you from having to pay a fine and raising your insurance premiums. And if you’re interested in finding a policy that may offer coverage for your helmet and gear, shop around for motorcycle insurance to find the best fit for you.

Motorcycle insurance helmet FAQs

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