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Check out the motorcycle helmet laws across the United States.
Are motorcycle helmets required in all 50 states?
While many states require motorcyclists to wear helmets when riding on public roads, they are not required for all riders in every state.
18 U.S. state have motorcycle helmet requirements for all riders and passengers.
29 states have helmet requirements for riders under a certain age (typically 21, 19, or 18 years old).
3 states do not have any helmet laws.
Motorcycle Helmet Laws
Find your state in the chart below to learn about the motorcycle helmet law requirements.
|State||Motorcycle Helmet Law||Exemptions/Notes|
|Alaska||Riders under 18 years old||–|
|Arizona||Riders under 18 years old||Mopeds exempt|
|Arkansas||Riders under 21 years old||–|
|Colorado||Riders and passengers under 18 years old||–|
|Connecticut||Riders under 18 years old||–|
|Delaware||Riders 18 years old and under||Mopeds exempt for riders at least 17 years old|
|Florida||Riders 20 years old and under||Mopeds exempt if the riders is at least 16 years old. Riders 21+ exempt with proper health insurance plan.|
|Georgia||All riders||Mopeds exempt|
|Hawaii||Riders under 18 years old||–|
|Idaho||Riders under 18 years old||Mopeds exempt|
|Illinois||No helmet law||–|
|Indiana||Riders under 18 years old||–|
|Iowa||No helmet law||–|
|Kansas||Riders under 18 years old||–|
|Kentucky||Riders under 21 years old||Mopeds exempt|
|Maine||Riders under 18 years old||Motorized bicycles exempt|
|Michigan||Riders under 21 years old||Mopeds exempt if the riders is at least 19 years old|
|Minnesota||Riders under 18 years old||–|
|Missouri||All riders||Motorized bicycles exempt|
|Montana||Riders under 18 years old||Mopeds exempt|
|New Hampshire||No helmet law||–|
|New Jersey||All riders||–|
|New Mexico||Riders under 18 years old||Mopeds exempt|
|New York||All riders||Class C limited use motorcycles with speeds of no more than 20 MPH exempt|
|North Carolina||All riders||–|
|North Dakota||Riders under 18 years old||–|
|Ohio||Riders under 18 years old||–|
|Oklahoma||Riders under 18 years old||Motor-driven cycles exempt|
|Pennsylvania||Riders under 21 years old||–|
|Rhode Island||Riders under 21 years old||–|
|South Carolina||Riders under 21 years old||3-wheel motorcycles exempt|
|South Dakota||Riders under 18 years old||–|
|Texas||Riders under 21 years old||–|
|Utah||Riders under 21 years old||–|
|Vermont||All riders||Motor-driven cycles exempt|
|West Virginia||All riders||–|
|Wisconsin||Riders under 18 years old||Mopeds exempt|
|Wyoming||Riders under 18 years old||Mopeds exempt|
|Washington DC||All riders||–|
Motorcycle Helmet Laws for All Riders (18 States & DC)
Full helmet laws, or universal motorcycle helmet laws, apply to all riders and passengers.
18 states and Washington DC require all riders to wear a helmet.
The following states require ALL motorcycle riders to wear a DOT-approved helmet:
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Carolina
- Washington DC
- West Virginia
No Motorcycle Helmet Law (3 States)
The following 3 states do not have a motorcycle helmet law:
- New Hampshire
Age Restricted Motorcycle Helmet Laws (29 States)
The following states only require helmets for riders under 18 years old:
- New Hampshire
- New Mexico
- North Dakota
- South Dakota
The following states require helmets for riders under 19 years old:
The following states require helmets for riders under 21 years old:
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
These types of age-based helmet laws are much more difficult to enforce.
Why don’t some states have motorcycle helmet laws?
Even though motorcycle helmets have been proven to reduce deaths, injuries, and medical costs, not every state has mandatory helmet laws for every rider.
In the 70s, the federal government required states to pass mandatory motorcycle helmet laws in order to receive federal funds for safety initiatives and highway construction.
Since then, helmet law incentives were relaxed, and many states weakened or removed their laws altogether.
Lawmakers in states without mandatory helmets laws typically cite personal freedom and responsibility as the reasons for not requiring motorcycle helmets. Others cite the difficulty of enforcement as another reason to remove the law.
Penalties for Riding Without a Motorcycle Helmet
If you are stopped for riding without a motorcycle helmet in a state that requires one, you may face:
- Fines ranging from $10 to $200+.
- Driving record points.
- Motorcycle license suspensions.
Exact fines and penalties vary by state and whether or not you were pulled over for any other reasons while also riding without a helmet.
Motorcycle Helmet Ratings
When you’re shopping for a motorcycle helmet, you should make sure to purchase one that has been rated by a recognized safety organization.
Motorcycle helmet safety ratings include:
- DOT (US Department of Transportation).
- ECE (Economic Commission for Europe).
DOT Helmet Sticker
In the United States, all legally accepted motorcycle helmets will include a DOT sticker or logo near the back of it.
The official DOT sticker ensures that the helmet meets a minimum safety standard and federal regulations based on a number of tests and criteria.
DOT approved helmets feature:
- Inner liners that are at least 1″ thick.
- Overall weight of about 3 pounds.
- Sturdy D-rings and helmet straps to keep the helmet on securely.
Why Wear a Motorcycle Helmet?
Whether your state has a mandatory helmet law or not, it’s a smart idea to wear one every time you get on your bike.
It’s been proven that helmets save lives and prevent traumatic brain injury in the event of a motorcycle collision.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motorcycle helmets reduce the risk of death by 37 to 42%, and riders without a helmet are 3 times more likely to suffer a traumatic brain injury in a collision.
Head injuries are the most common cause of motorcycle fatalities. If you ride without a helmet and are involved in a crash, your risk of death is much greater.
Motorcycle helmets are designed to reduce injury in the event of an impact. Through a combination of an outer shell, foam liner, padding system, and retention system a helmet works to absorb impacts so that your skull and brain do not.
While your helmet is designed to protect your head during a crash, it’s best if it never has to do so. Motorcycle helmets have other benefits as well, including:
- Built in eye protection and face shields on certain types of helmets. (otherwise, goggles can be worn.)
- Protection from bugs, rocks, and road debris.
- Reducing the harmful and exhausting effects of wind and road noise.
- Helping make the rider more visible to other road users, depending on the color, reflectivity, and type.
Contrary to many myths and old-school rider opinions, modern motorcycle helmets do not negatively impact your ability to see or hear while riding.
Learn more about recommended motorcycle safety gear.
Check out some of the best motorcycle helmets.
How Does a Motorcycle Helmet Work?
Motorcycle helmets consist of 4 main components:
- Hard outer shell: designed to compress and disperse energy during an impact.
- Impact-absorbing liner: designed to further absorb shock and protect your head as it continues to move during an impact.
- Inner padding: designed to keep the helmet comfortable, snug, and fitting effectively.
- Retention strap: consisting of a chin strap that is designed to keep the helmet in place during a crash.
Helmets are designed to withstand a single impact.
When to Get a New Motorcycle Helmet
Motorcycle helmets are single-use, meaning they are designed to absorb a single impact.
If your helmet has been in a crash, if something hit it, or if it has been dropped, it’s time to replace it.
The materials that make up the impact-absorbing, retention straps, and padding can tend to wear and degrade over time. If your helmet is old or your notice signs of wear, you should also replace it.
In most cases, you should be replacing your helmet every 5 years. And, you should never buy a used helmet.
Helmet technology only continue to improve, and motorcycle helmets are much lighter and more protective now than they were in the past.
If you’re unsure about your current helmet or find it uncomfortable, it’s probably time for a new one.
Learn more about getting the right fit and caring for your motorcycle helmet.