In most states, you are not legally required to wear a helmet when you ride a motorcycle. But just because you can go helmet-free doesn’t mean you should.
There are plenty of reasons to wear a motorcycle helmet regardless of the laws in your state, and we’ll go over those in a minute.
First, it’s important to understand that only 19 states have motorcycle helmet laws that maintain all riders need to wear a helmet regardless of age.
In other states, only riders under a certain age (such as 20 or 17) are required to wear a helmet while others can go without.
Further, there are only three states that don’t currently have any laws on the books regarding motorcycle helmets and who has to wear one.
Also note that, in states with comprehensive motorcycle helmet laws, you may be required to wear a helmet that is approved by the Department of Transportation.
DOT-approved helmets, as they are called, offer a higher standard of protection and typically cost more as a result.
Motorcycle Helmet Laws — State by State
You may be wondering if you need to wear a helmet depending on where you live and where you ride your bike the most.
The following chart lists motorcycle requirements for each state, as well as any applicable minimum age requirements:
|State||Mandatory Helmet Law||Riders Under This Age Must Wear a Helmet|
|Alaska||Yes||17 and younger|
|Arizona||Yes||17 and younger|
|Arkansas||Yes||20 and younger|
|Colorado||Yes||17 and younger|
|Connecticut||Yes||17 and younger|
|Delaware||Yes||18 and younger|
|District of Columbia||Yes||All riders|
|Florida||Yes||20 and younger|
|Hawaii||Yes||17 and younger|
|Idaho||Yes||17 and younger|
|Indiana||Yes||17 and younger|
|Kansas||Yes||17 and younger|
|Kentucky||Yes||20 and younger|
|Maine||Yes||17 and younger|
|Michigan||Yes||20 and younger|
|Minnesota||Yes||17 and younger|
|Montana||Yes||17 and younger|
|New Jersey||Yes||All riders|
|New Mexico||Yes||17 and younger|
|New York||Yes||All riders|
|North Carolina||Yes||All riders|
|North Dakota||Yes||17 and younger|
|Ohio||Yes||17 and younger|
|Oklahoma||Yes||17 and younger|
|Pennsylvania||Yes||20 and younger|
|Rhode Island||Yes||20 and younger|
|South Carolina||Yes||20 and younger|
|South Dakota||Yes||17 and younger|
|Texas||Yes||20 and younger|
|Utah||Yes||17 and younger|
|West Virginia||Yes||All riders|
|Wisconsin||Yes||17 and younger|
|Wyoming||Yes||17 and younger|
Why You Should Wear A Helmet Regardless of State Law
While the information above can help you understand the legal requirements for motorcycle helmets in various states, you may want to consider wearing one whether state law mandates it or not.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are numerous benefits to be gained from wearing this type of protective gear — and plenty of consequences for not doing so.
- Motorcycle helmets saved approximately 1,859 lives in 2016, the last time they analyzed motorcycle accidents and injuries.
- Wearing a helmet reduces the risk of death on a motorcycle by 32%.
- Wearing a helmet reduces your chance of a head injury by 69%.
- The United States could save $1 billion in economic costs if all motorcyclists wore helmets.
The reality is that, no matter how safely you operate your motorcycle, motorcycles riders lack the protection of an enclosed vehicle. This makes you more susceptible to injury in the event of adverse road conditions, bad weather, or an encounter with a dangerous driver.
Also, note that head injuries are common and fatal among injured motorcyclists and that the best way to protect yourself is by wearing a helmet.
Not only can a motorcycle helmet save your life, but it can prevent you from having permanent brain damage as well as some of the worst injuries motorcycle riders can sustain.
The CDC explains the risk and reward of wearing a helmet perfectly:
“With motorcycle ownership at an all-time high, motorcycle-related deaths and traumatic brain injuries are expected to remain at high levels unless more effective protective measures are enacted. Helmets are the only safety measure proven to save lives, and the universal helmet law (one that covers all motorcycle riders) is demonstrated to be the best way to ensure helmet use,”
…they note in their most recent Motorcycle Safety Guide, which offers tips that can help you save money and your life.
Can Wearing a Helmet Help You Save Money On Motorcycle Insurance Premiums?
Losing your life in a motorcycle accident may seem unfathomable, but that’s not the only consequence that can come about after a messy accident on your bike.
In fact, there are huge economic costs that come into play when motorcycle riders don’t wear helmets and fail to steer clear of other perils.
According to the CDC, the “economic burden of injuries and deaths from motorcycle-related crashes in one year totaled $12 billion dollars.” Studies have shown that these costs are not only born by the riders and their families, but also by the general public by way of Medicaid and other public healthcare programs.
Also, note that wearing a helmet — or not wearing a helmet — can play a role in the long-term trend of motorcycle insurance premiums. The more motorcycle accidents that occur — and the more costly they are — the higher premiums will have to rise over time to account for the increase in costs.
Considering wearing a helmet can help riders prevent some of the worst — and most expensive — head and spinal cord injuries anyone can sustain, it’s reasonable to say that wearing a helmet can help keep motorcycle insurance premiums lower over time.
If you plan to have a motorcycle for the long haul, you may want to consider how wearing a helmet can help you do your part to keep costs down for everyone.
How to Shop for a Motorcycle Helmet
If you plan to wear a helmet to protect yourself when riding your bike, you should purchase one that meets the highest safety standards. Wearing a DOT-approved helmet is a requirement in some states anyway, so it makes sense to look for helmets that meet this minimum requirement from the get-go.
While shopping for a helmet doesn’t have to be overly stressful or time-consuming, it’s easy to find yourself overwhelmed with options. There are full-face motorcycle helmets, options that cover only part of your face, helmets with and without visors, and plenty of helmet “looks” to choose from, after all.
We recommend starting your search to include only DOT-approved helmets for starters, then considering the type of helmet you find visually appealing. Also, consider whether you want your entire face covered or protected — or whether you feel as if having the top and sides of your head is sufficient.
Also remember that, when it comes to shopping for a bicycle helmet, you can spend a little or a lot. DOT-approved motorcycle helmets tend to start at around $50, but they can go up quite a bit from there. It’s not unheard of to spend $500 or more on a high-quality helmet that’s meant to last a decade or longer, but you don’t have to spend that much, either.
When to Replace Your Motorcycle Helmet
Speaking of how long motorcycle helmets are meant to last, it’s crucial to remember that helmets have a lifespan.
One that has never been in a wreck or any type of accident may easily last 20+ years before you should feel inclined to buy a new one with improved safety features.
Some experts even recommend replacing them every 5 or 7 years regardless of how often you use them.
On the flip side, your new helmet may only last a few months — or even a few days — if you’re in an accident right away.
Keep in mind that motorcycle helmets are a lot like children’s car seats. Once they’ve been in an accident, they are considered damaged and should be replaced before you get back on your bike.
Also only buy or borrow a motorcycle helmet if you can confirm it has never been in an accident of any kind.
Should You Wear a Motorcycle Helmet?
Having your own motorcycle can be a dream come true if you love the open road and the feel of the wind on your face, but don’t forget about the safety component.
You’ll have more fun — and enjoy more peace of mind — over the long haul if you are properly insured to ride your bike and taking all the preventative safety measures afforded to you.
One important step is wearing a helmet every time you ride your bike — and no matter what your state law says.
Also, make sure any passengers on your bike are wearing a helmet that can help prevent the worst injuries one can face.
It’s an undeniable fact that wearing a helmet is much safer than going without, so you might as well get with the program.