Motorcycle Helmets Laws by State

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The following states require ALL motorcycle riders to wear a DOT-approved helmet:

  • Alabama
  • California
  • Georgia
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Washington DC
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

The following states do not have a motorcycle helmet law:

  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • New Hampshire

Find your state in the chart below to learn about the motorcycle helmet law requirements.

StateMotorcycle Helmet LawExemptions/Notes
AlabamaAll riders
AlaskaRiders under 18 years old
ArizonaRiders under 18 years oldMopeds exempt
ArkansasRiders under 21 years old
CaliforniaAll riders
ColoradoRiders and passengers under 18 years old
ConnecticutRiders under 18 years old
DelawareRiders 18 years old and underMopeds exempt for riders at least 17 years old
FloridaRiders 20 years old and underMopeds exempt if the riders is at least 16 years old. Riders 21+ exempt with proper insurance coverage.
GeorgiaAll ridersMopeds exempt
HawaiiRiders under 18 years old
IdahoRiders under 18 years oldMopeds exempt
IllinoisNo helmet law
IndianaRiders under 18 years old
IowaNo helmet law
KansasRiders under 18 years old
KentuckyRiders under 21 years oldMopeds exempt
LouisianaAll riders
MaineRiders under 18 years oldMotorized bicycles exempt
MarylandAll riders
MassachusettsAll riders
MichiganRiders under 21 years oldMopeds exempt if the riders is at least 19 years old
MinnesotaRiders under 18 years old
MississippiAll riders
MissouriAll ridersMotorized bicycles exempt
MontanaRiders under 18 years oldMopeds exempt
NebraskaAll riders
NevadaAll riders
New HampshireNo helmet law
New JerseyAll riders
New MexicoRiders under 18 years oldMopeds exempt
New YorkAll ridersClass C limited use motorcycles with speeds of no more than 20 MPH exemt
North CarolinaAll riders
North DakotaRiders under 18 years old
OhioRiders under 18 years old
OklahomaRiders under 18 years oldMotor-driven cycles exempt
OregonAll riders
PennsylvaniaRiders under 21 years old
Rhode IslandRiders under 21 years old
South CarolinaRiders under 21 years old3-wheel motorcycles exempt
South DakotaRiders under 18 years old
TennesseeAll riders
TexasRiders under 21 years old
UtahRiders under 21 years old
VermontAll ridersMotor-driven cycles exempt
VirginiaAll riders
WashingtonAll riders
West VirginiaAll riders
WisconsinRiders under 18 years oldMopeds exempt
WyomingRiders under 18 years oldMopeds exempt
Washington DCAll riders

Why Wear a Motorcycle Helmet?

It’s been proven that helmets save lives and prevent traumatic brain injury in the event of a motorcycle collision.

Head injuries are the most common cause of motorcycle fatalities. If you ride without a helmet and are involved in a crash, your chances of dying are 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.
  • 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.

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.

How to Choose the Right Motorcycle Helmet

Choosing the right helmet comes down to a matter of fit and function.

In the United States, motorcycle helmets must include a DOT sticker indicating that it meets safety standards set by the U.S. DOT.

The most important things to consider when choosing a motorcycle helmet are fit and level of protection.

Here’s how to try on a helmet to get the right fit:

  • Hold the helmet by the chin straps with your thumbs on the inside and spread the straps towards the outside of the helmet.
  • Place the helmet over your head and pull it down using the chin straps.
  • Fit the helmet square on your head.
  • It should feel snug, but not too tight.
  • If the helmet can move up and down or wiggle side-to-side too much, it’s too large.
  • The cheek pads should touch your cheeks without squishing your face.
  • There should be no space between your temple and the brow passing.
  • Any face shields or the chin portion of full-face helmets should not touch your nose or chin.
  • The helmet should not obstruct your vision and should provide you with adequate peripheral vision (at least 105 degrees to each side).

New helmets should be tight as they’ll wear in over time.

Types of Motorcycle Helmets

The main types of motorcycle helmets include:

  • Full-face helmets.
  • 3/4 open-face helmets.
  • Half-helmets.

Full-face helmets provide the most protection and often include built-in eye protection or face shields.

3/4 helmets typically require your to get a snap-on face shield.

Half-helmets do not offer adequate protection in the event of an impact and typically lack a place to add a face shield.

Whichever type of helmet you use, be sure to fasten the chin strap every time you ride.

When to Get a New 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.

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.

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