Which States Require Motorcyclists to Wear Helmets?


Quick Answer

As of 2015, the District of Columbia and 19 states, including California, New York, Louisiana, Oregon and Virginia, require all motorcycle riders to wear helmets, says Consumer Reports. Some states that require riders younger than 20 to wear helmets include Kentucky, Florida, Rhode Island, Texas and Arkansas. Indiana, Hawaii, Connecticut, Oklahoma and New Mexico are among the states that require riders under the age of 17 to wear helmets. Iowa, New Hampshire and Illinois are the only states with no helmet laws.

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Full Answer

Motorcycle helmets reduce the risk of injury in a crash, according to Consumer Reports. They are 37 percent effective in preventing fatalities and 67 percent effective in preventing brain trauma. In 2012, more than 4,900 riders died in accidents, an increase of 33 percent since 2003. Deaths and injuries from motorcycle accidents tend to decline in states that pass helmet laws. In states without helmet laws, about 50 percent of riders wear helmets.

In 1967, the federal government tied state highway construction funding and access to particular safety programs to motorcycle helmet laws, notes the Highway Loss Data Institute. By the early 1970s, nearly every state had created a helmet law. In 1976, states pressured Congress to halt financial penalties from the Department of Transportation, and Congress complied. Helmet laws that apply to all low-power vehicles, such as scooters and mopeds, exist in 23 states, and 24 states have laws that cover some of these vehicles.

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