American Helmet laws

American state relaxes helmet laws

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Most riders in the American state of Missouri will soon be able to ride without a helmet if they are aged 26 or more and have health insurance.

That leaves only 19 out of 50 states where all riders must wear a helmet.

This is not the first time Missouri has been attempted to repeal its helmet law.

Missouri voted in May 2019 to repeal its helmet laws, but Governor Mike Parson vetoed the Bill only because of a provision to confiscate licences of people who don’t pay fines for minor traffic offences.

The Governor had no qualms with allowing riders over 18 to decide whether they want to wear a helmet or not.

In fact, Parson supported repealing the helmet rule as a legislator.

So on Tuesday, he signed the proposal as part of wider legislation. The new helmet law will come into effect from 28 August 2020.

“Helmets could greatly reduce the severity of an injury or likelihood of a fatality occurring in the case of a motorcycle accident,” said Attorney Jim Hurley of Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers. “In some cases, a helmet can be the difference between minor injuries and death.

American laws

crash accident helmet Sturgis insurance claim

Missouri is not the only American state reversing mandatory helmet laws for all riders. There have been several in recent years including Nebraska which last year finally rejected the idea.

US helmet laws were introduced in 1966 when the feds withheld 10% of states highway construction funds unless they introduced certain safety regulations, including helmet laws.

Within a decade, 47 states had complied.

But in 1975, Congress amended the Highway Safety Act to prevent the use of federal highway funding as leverage against states.

Despite evidence of helmets protecting riders form death and severe head injury, 28 states have repealed their helmet laws with more likely to follow.

It seems strange to Australian riders since we were the first nation in the world to make helmets compulsory in 1961.

Most American states introduced compulsory helmet laws in 1967, but there is a growing movement toward “more freedom” for riders with a strong civil liberties lobby actively fighting the laws.

In recent years, states such as Michigan have relaxed their helmet laws and the latest to consider the move is Tennessee, despite the overwhelming evidence that helmets save lives.

Safety

As Dudley (William H Macy) tells Woody (John Travolta) in “Wild Hogs”: “62 per cent of all motorcycle fatalities could be prevented with the use of an approved DOT helmet.”

Liberal helmet laws
Wild Hogs

According to the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, for every 100 motorcyclists killed in crashes while not wearing a helmet, 37 could have been saved had they worn helmets.

Yet, the use of motorcycle helmets in the US continues to decline to about half from 71% in 2000.

So the temptation when you visit America is to try some of that freedom for yourself.

I must admit to having tried it a few times, usually at slow speeds around town, but on one occasion at the speed limit on an Indiana highway.

While I felt very vulnerable, I have to admit it was absolutely exhilarating … but also deafening.

The wind in your hair is one thing, but the wind in your ears is another.

It also blows your hat off! I’m surprised Billy in Easy Rider could ride without getting his cowboy hat blown off.

Liberal helmet laws
Motorbike Writer in Indiana

State laws

When you are again able to fly to the United States, maybe for Daytona Bike Week in March or the Sturgis Rally in August, don’t get too excited about not wearing a motorcycle helmet.

As soon as you get off the plane in California, you will have to wear a helmet to ride. In fact, 20 states, mainly on the west and east coasts of the US, have compulsory helmet laws.

American states with motorcycle helmet laws for all riders are: Alabama, California, DC, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.

Only three states (Illinois, Iowa and New Hampshire) have no helmet use law.

The remaining 28 states have varying laws requiring minors to wear a motorcycle helmet while six of those states require adult riders to have $10,000 in insurance and wear a helmet in their first year of riding.

About half the states also allow you to ride a low-powered motorcycle such as a 50cc bike or scooter without a helmet.

State Riders Required To Have Helmets
Alabama All riders
Alaska 17 and younger
Arizona 17 and younger
Arkansas 20 and younger
California All riders
Colorado 17 and younger and passengers 17 and younger
Connecticut 17 and younger
Delaware 18 and younger
District of Columbia All riders
Florida 20 and younger
Georgia All riders
Hawaii 17 and younger
Idaho 17 and younger
Illinois No law
Indiana 17 and younger
Iowa No law
Kansas 17 and younger
Kentucky 20 and younger
Louisiana All riders
Maine 17 and younger
Maryland All riders
Massachusetts All riders
Michigan 20 and younger
Minnesota 17 and younger
Mississippi All riders
Missouri All riders (changes on 28 Aug 2020)
Montana 17 and younger
Nebraska All riders
Nevada All riders
New Hampshire No law
New Jersey All riders
New Mexico 17 and younger
New York All riders
North Carolina All riders
North Dakota 17 and younger
Ohio 17 and younger
Oklahoma 17 and younger
Oregon All riders
Pennsylvania 20 and younger
Rhode Island 20 and younger
South Carolina 20 and younger
South Dakota 17 and younger
Tennessee All riders
Texas 20 and younger
Utah 17 and younger
Vermont All riders
Virginia All riders
Washington All riders
West Virginia All riders
Wisconsin 17 and younger
Wyoming 17 and younger
Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute

 

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