According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 20 states and the District of Columbia had laws on the books requiring all motorcyclists to wear helmets as of June 2006 (See chart below). In another 26 states only people under a specific age (mostly between 17 and 20 years of age) were required to wear helmets. Four states (Colorado, Illinois, Iowa and New Hampshire) had no helmet use laws.
According to NHTSA’s National Occupant Protection Use Survey, a nationally representative observational survey, motorcycle helmet use rose to 51 percent in June 2006, from 48 percent in June 2005. Helmet use had been falling from a high of 71 percent in October 2000. Use rates remain lower in states that do not require all riders to use helmets. In June 2006, 68 percent of motorcyclists in states requiring helmet use wore them, compared with 37 percent of motorcyclists in states that do not. The survey counts only helmets that comply with Department of Transportation standards. Since 1997, five states have limited helmet laws to cover only young drivers. The latest, Pennsylvania, limits mandatory usage requirements to motorcycle drivers under the age of 20. But in August 2004 Louisiana reinstated its universal helmet law.
Motorcycle Helmet Use Laws by State
(1) Universal laws cover all riders; partial laws cover young riders and/or some adult riders.
(2) Alaska’s motorcycle helmet use law covers passengers of all ages, operators younger than 19, and operators with instructional permits.
(3) In Florida and Kentucky, the law requires that all riders younger than 21 years wear helmets, without exception. In Florida, those 21 years and older may ride without helmets only if they can show proof that they are covered by a medical insurance policy. Texas exempts riders 21 years or older if the either 1) can show proof of successfully completing a motorcycle operator training and safety course or 2) can show proof of having a medical insurance policy.
(4) Motorcycle helmet laws in Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, and Wisconsin also cover operators with instructional/learner’s permits. Maine’s motorcycle helmet use law also covers passengers 14 years and younger and passengers if their operators are require to wear a helmet.
(5) North Dakota’s motorcycle helmet use law covers all operators traveling with operators who are covered by the law.
(6) Ohio’s motorcycle helmet use law covers all operators during the first year of licensure and all passengers of operators who are covered by the law.
(7) Rhode Island’s motorcycle helmet use law covers all operators during the first year of licensure and all passengers. Pennsylvania’s motorcycle helmet use law covers all operators during the first two years of licensure unless the operator has completed the safety course approved by the department of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation.
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Safety Issues PDF (554K)
Helmet Use PDF (569K)
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Motorcycle fatalities and injuries
Motorcycle safety issues
Motorcycle helmet use
Motorcycle riders’ rights