Bicycle helmet laws have recently been cropping up across America at both the state and local levels. There is no comprehensive federal legislation covering bicycle helmets at this time. Approximately half of the states have some sort of law on the books that requires a child to wear a helmet, and there are also several cities and municipalities that have adopted similar measures. It is important to know the details about the particular municipality in order to know what laws are in place for bicyclists.
Statistics on Bicycle Injury
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports approximately 700 fatalities among bicycle riders in an average year. An average of about 50,000 suffer injury, and these numbers appear to be on the rise. Bicycle helmets have been shown to be about 88 percent effective in preventing severe cranial trauma in the specific types of accidents that would have resulted in such an injury.
A Brief Overview of Helmet Laws in States Across America
Helmet laws vary widely across America. For example, while Kentucky law doesn't require bicycle riders or passengers to wear helmets unless they're in Louisville, Florida requires that every bicycle rider under the age of 16 wear a helmet unless they are in a private driveway.
Every state and municipality with a bicycle helmet law holds different penalties and punishments to those who violate it. Some states extend their laws to include in-line skates and scooters while other states say that no helmets are needed if the rider is in a cul-de-sac or other dead-end street. There are even cases where the state and local law disagree.
The states that currently have bicycle helmet laws are:
- Alabama - Bike riders under 16 must wear helmets statewide.
- Alaska - Cities in Alaska vary between requiring helmets for riders under 18 and riders under 16.
- Arizona - Certain cities in Arizona require bike riders under 18 to wear helmets.
- California - State law requires riders under 18 to wear helmets, including when riding skateboards, scooters, and skates.
- Connecticut - State law requires bike riders under 16 to wear helmets.
- Delaware - Delaware requires riders under 18 to wear helmets.
- District of Columbia - The law throughout D.C. requires riders under 16 to wear helmets.
- Florida - Helmets are required for all riders under 16 statewide.
- Georgia - Riders under 16 statewide must wear a helmet.
- Hawaii - Riders under 16 throughout the state must wear helmets.
- Illinois - Laws vary by city. Chicago, for example, requires messengers and delivery riders of all ages to wear helmets.
- Kansas - No statewide law exists, but the city of Lawrence requires riders under 18 to wear helmets.
- Kentucky - No statewide law exists, but Louisville parks require riders under 18 to wear helmets.
- Louisiana - Helmets are required for children under 12 years of age.
- Maine - Maine requires those under 16 to wear helmets when riding a bicycle.
- Maryland - Maryland laws require riders under 16 to have helmets.
- Massachusetts - Bike riders under 17 are required to wear helmets statewide.
- Michigan - No statewide law exists, but certain cities have varying laws.
- Mississippi - No statewide law exists, but some municipalities have all-age helmet laws.
- Missouri - No statewide law exists, but several municipalities have all-age laws or require riders under 17 to wear helmets.
- Montana - No statewide law exists, but Billings requires those under 16 to wear helmets.
- Nevada - Certain Indian reservations require bike riders under 17 to wear helmets.
- New Hampshire - State law requires riders under 16 years old to wear bicycle helmets.
- New Jersey - Riders under 17 years old statewide must wear helmets.
- New Mexico - Riders under 18 must wear bike helmets.
- New York - State law requires riders under 14 to wear helmets.
- North Carolina - State law requires that riders under 16 wear helmets while riding.
- Ohio - No statewide law exists, but several municipalities hold their own age-specific requirements.
- Oklahoma - No statewide law exists, but Norman and Oklahoma City have age-specific laws.
- Oregon - State law requires riders under 16 to wear helmets while riding.
- Pennsylvania - Children under 12 years old statewide must wear helmets.
- Rhode Island - Riders under the age of 16 must wear bicycle helmets.
- Tennessee - State law requires riders under 16 to wear helmets.
- Texas - No statewide law exists, but many municipalities have their own age-specific laws.
- Virginia - No statewide law exists, but several municipalities require riders under 15 to wear helmets.
- Washington - No statewide law exists, but several cities have helmet laws for riders of all ages.
- West Virginia - State law requires riders under 15 years old to wear helmets.
- Wisconsin - No statewide law exists, but Port Washington requires helmet use for riders under 17.
Choosing a Bike Helmet
When selecting a bike helmet for you or your child, you'll need to find one that not only fits well but provides decent protection in case of an accident. You'll want to search for a CPSC sticker somewhere on the helmet. This shows that the helmet meets U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission standards. You'll also want to select a helmet with a smooth outer shell and no snag points or sharp edges. Brighter helmets will be easier for motorists to see. Be wary of selecting helmets with too many vents as these can increase pressure on a few points in an impact.
Keeping Safe While Biking
Accidents involving bicyclists are dangerous even with a helmet on. It's important to keep as safe as possible by preventing further injury with a helmet. Failure to wear a helmet, or provide one for a child, in a place with helmet laws could result in fines or other penalties. In the event of a collision with a vehicle, a helmet could be the difference between traumatic injuries and minor ones. If injuries occur as a result of a driver's negligence or the failure of a helmet to function properly during an accident, an injured victim may be able to seek compensation from the driver at fault or the manufacturer of the helmet with the help of an attorney.
Speak with a Personal Injury Attorney
Injuries cost money, including time away from work, medical bills and other complications. You should have an attorney help you with your claim. Not sure if you have a good injury case? Speak to a local personal injury attorney about the merits of your case. This one step can help you protect your rights and take the proper next steps.