A bike ride on the open road is fun and healthy, but it can also put you at risk of serious head injuries if you aren’t wearing a helmet. Before getting on your bike, it’s very important to be aware of both federal and state laws regarding bike helmets to avoid getting ticketed, paying fines, or worse, getting hurt in an accident.
In some places, helmets are mandatory, but they aren’t required or even recommended in others.
Many people have questions about bike helmet laws and whether or not it’s illegal to ride without a helmet. Learn whether it is legal to ride a bike without a helmet by reading this short guide to bicycle helmet laws. You’ll also find some safety tips to make sure you never ride without one again.
Bike Riding Across the Country?
As bicyclists in America, we’re accustomed to just hopping on our bikes and riding. For us, it’s natural. Unfortunately, not everyone appreciates the act of bicycling. Even some question whether we have any rights on the road at all.
Recently, I’ve received the question: Is it illegal to ride a bike without a helmet? Let’s look at the question further and explore the right to bicycle freely in the United States.
What States Require Bicycle Helmets?
Many states have laws that require bicycle helmets for kids, including Arkansas, California, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Texas. The best way to find out if you’re required by law to wear a helmet when biking is to contact your state’s transportation or health department.
On top of that, most states don’t require adult cyclists to wear helmets. However, just because you can doesn’t mean you should; wearing a helmet can help prevent serious head injuries and death.
The Reason for the Helmet Laws
Many states have passed laws requiring helmets to prevent head injuries during bicycle accidents. By preventing head injuries, helmets can help lessen permanent injury and, in many cases, prevent death from severe brain trauma.
Bike Helmet Laws in the U.S.
It is highly recommended that you wear a bicycle helmet when riding your bicycle. Many states require cyclists to wear helmets to reduce the risk of injury or death. Even in states where helmets aren’t required by law, it is still highly recommended that cyclists wear them.
Here is a list of states where it is legal or unlawful to ride a bike without a helmet:
|Alabama||Riders under 16|
|Alaska||Riders under 16|
|Arizona||Riders under 18|
|California||Riders under 18|
|Connecticut||Riders under 16|
|Delaware||Riders under 18|
|District of Columbia||Riders under 16|
|Florida||Riders under 16|
|Georgia||Riders under 16|
|Hawaii||Riders under 16|
|Illinois||Riders under 16|
|Kansas||Riders under 16|
|Kentucky||Riders under 18|
|Louisiana||Riders under 12|
|Maine||Riders under 16|
|Maryland||Riders under 16|
|Mass||Riders under 17|
|Michigan||Riders under 16|
|Mississippi||Required for all ages|
|Missouri||Riders under 16|
|Montana||Riders under 16|
|Nevada||Riders under 17|
|New Hampshire||Riders under 16|
|New Jersey||Riders under 17|
|New Mexico||Riders under 18|
|New York||Riders under 14|
|North Carolina||Riders under 16|
|North Dakota||Not required|
|Ohio||Riders under 16|
|Oklahoma||Required for all ages|
|Oregon||Riders under 16|
|Penn||Riders under 12|
|Rhode Island||Riders under 16|
|South Dakota||Not required|
|Tennessee||Riders under 16|
|Texas||Riders under 16|
|Virginia||Riders under 15|
|Washington State||Required for all ages|
|Wisconsin||Riders under 17|
Please note that the information above is subject to change, as laws often change. It is always best to check with your state’s Department of Transportation website for the most up-to-date information on laws.
Following is a list of cities that require bike helmets for all ages.
- Montevalla, Alabama
- Homewood, Alabama
- Chico (Bidwell Park), California
- Chicago, Illinois
- Louisville, Kentucky
- Sykesville, Maryland
- Kensington Metropark, Michigan
- Jackson, Mississippi
- Starkville, Mississippi
- Erie County Parks, New York
- Greenburgh, New York
- Rockland Co., New York
- Black Mountain, North Carolina
- Boone, North Carolina
- Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
- Morgantown, W. Virginia
Is it Illegal to Ride a Bike Without a Helmet?
Based on the facts, the answer is no. The majority of states do not require bikers to wear helmets. Rather, they recommend wearing them. Although your state may have a law requiring you to wear a bike helmet, riding your bike without one is still legal.
Conversely, if your state requires you to wear a bike helmet, riding a bike without one is against the law.
You can be fined if you ride a bicycle without a helmet in some states. Other states can fine your parents if they allow you to sit on a bike without a helmet.
When you ride a bicycle, you should always wear a helmet. If you are hit by a car or fall off your bicycle and hit your head, you could suffer brain damage or even die. Wearing a helmet can reduce your chances of getting brain damage or dying in an accident while riding your bike.
The law prohibiting you from riding a bicycle without a helmet is for your safety and protection.
Why are Bike Helmets Important?
Every time you ride a bicycle, you should wear a helmet. Bicycle helmets can save lives and reduce long-term disabilities caused by accidents.
Helmets are especially important for children and teenagers. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), wearing a helmet can reduce the risk of head injuries by 85 percent.
The NHTSA has also reported that for every 1 percent increase in helmet use, the fatality rate per 10,000 bike riders decreases by 4 percent. By wearing a helmet, you can also reduce your chances of sustaining a brain injury by up to 88 percent.
The Reason Why People Don’t Wear Helmets
The odds of sustaining a head injury while riding a bike are 40 times greater than those who wear helmets.
Despite the risks involved with not wearing a helmet, many people continue to choose this option because it does not fit into their lifestyle or look good for their friends and peers.
They think it will prevent them from getting attention if they wear one and like how they look with their hair flowing freely in the wind rather than covered by a plastic shell or with material around their neck and ears.
People generally do not wear bicycle helmets because they are uncomfortable, sweaty, and inconvenient to carry around.
Excuses for Not Wearing a Helmet
When it comes to riding a motorcycle, people have all kinds of excuses for not wearing a helmet.
Here are a few lame excuses made by my classmates during their college years.
- Helmets don’t look good to me
- I can’t hear well enough wearing a helmet
- It’s uncomfortable to wear a bike helmet
- Helmets are for tough guys
- Helmets are for people who don’t know how to ride
- Helmets are for people with no sense of adventure
- Bicycle helmets are too hot
- It isn’t easy to carry one around
- Helmets are expensive, so I cannot afford one right now
But here’s the thing. A half-inch thick piece of plastic can save your life and prevent a lifetime of pain.
Statistics show that you are 10 times more likely to die in an accident if you don’t wear a motorcycle helmet. If you survive a wreck without a helmet, you are likely to have serious injuries like head trauma and broken bones.
Benefits of Wearing a Helmet
Helmets are essential for bike riders, but they also benefit motorcyclists, skateboarders, and even snowboarders. Helmets protect the brain and head from injury in a crash and reduce the risk of concussions.
- Wearing a helmet can prevent serious head injuries and death
- If you wear a helmet, you’ll reduce the severity of brain injuries and avoid death or serious injury
- The use of helmets would reduce the severity of jawbone and face injuries
- When wearing a helmet, injuries to the neck will be less severe
Tips to Stay Safe on Your Bike
It’s great to get around on a bicycle, but you need to stay safe when doing so. Check out the following tips to keep yourself protected while riding.
1. Wear a Helmet
Wearing a helmet is always a good idea, even if you are an experienced cyclist. It can protect you from serious injuries while biking, like head trauma in case of an accident or fall.
2. Always Stay Vigilant
Always be alert when cycling to avoid accidents and other dangers. Be aware even on quiet streets, and obey all traffic signs and signals.
3. Use Your Hand Signals
Use hand signals if you plan to turn or slow down so that drivers behind you will know what you intend to do.
4. Obey All Traffic Laws
While cycling laws differ from state to state, following them at all times will keep you safe on the road. It can include stopping at stop signs or using bike lanes if they are available for cyclists.
5. Wear Bright Clothing
Bright clothing can help drivers see you during the day, and at night, so they won’t hit you by mistake. Shirts, pants, socks, and shoes with bright colors that contrast your surroundings will make you more visible to other cyclists and drivers.
6. Avoid Wearing Headphones or Earbuds
While cycling, wearing headphones or earbuds can prevent you from hearing cars or other cyclists.
7. Don’t Ride Against Traffic
Ride with the traffic, not against it. Keep an eye out for approaching cars and ride in a straight line; do not weave back and forth between parked cars.
8. Avoid Riding too Close to Parked Vehicles
If you hit an object like a low wall or curb while riding next to a parked car, you can become pinned between the car and the object.
Where Can You Get a Helmet?
While not all bike helmets are created equal, they come with specific standards and certifications, so you must check that. To buy a good bike helmet, you need to know if there are any legal obligations regarding their use where you live.
While it is not illegal to ride a bike without a helmet, I strongly advise against it. Helmets can save lives, and there’s no more dangerous place on earth than the roads. If you don’t believe me, perhaps you will believe this statistic: 1.6 million bike accidents occur every year, one in four of which leaves a victim dead.
Even though your helmet will not protect you from all injuries or even all head injuries, there is a good chance you will end up in the hospital if you do not wear one. Therefore, the obvious answer to your question is yes, it is illegal to ride a bike without a helmet.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. Why is wearing a helmet important?
Helmets are light, small, and protective hats that are worn on the head. The helmet’s main purpose is to protect your head, especially when you fall. You won’t hit your head on the hard ground when you fall wearing a helmet.
Q. What happens if you don’t wear a bike helmet?
When you do not wear a helmet and are involved in an accident, you could suffer serious injuries due to the force of impact on your head. Deceleration forces can injure your body and brain during a fall or collision with another person or object.
Additionally, you may hit your head on the ground or other hard surfaces during these accidents.
Q. Does Your State Require You to Wear a Bike Helmet?
Before you hop on your bike and take off for a spin, it’s important to ensure you are protected by wearing proper safety gear. Helmets are required in most states for cyclists under 18, while in others, they’re also required for adults and cyclists who ride over 20 miles per hour.
Some states, like California, require all cyclists to wear helmets, regardless of their age or speed. Check out our state-by-state breakdown chart above in this article to determine if your state requires bike helmets before you set out on your next ride.
Q. Can you get a ticket for not wearing a bike helmet?
Yes, you can. Most cities in America do not require riders to wear helmets, but some do. Even if your city or state doesn’t have a helmet law, many states have primary safety laws that make it illegal for anyone under 18 to ride without one.
Q. How much does a good bike helmet cost?
The cost of a bike helmet can be high, but it can save your life. A good helmet will provide more protection than others, so if you intend to ride your bike frequently, you should choose one that fits snugly and offers some peace of mind.
Bike helmets should cost somewhere between $25 and $100. Helmets should be made of a hard outer shell that covers your entire head, soft inner liners that protect your scalp and brain, and an adjustable strap to keep them firmly in place. If your helmet costs more than $100, you’re probably paying too much.
Sadly, it cannot be easy to find something with all those features. Therefore, we have compiled a list of cute bike helmets for adults that might help you pick the right helmet.