It's true that bike helmets are unquestionably the most important accessories to include in your safety kit.
But must you wear one before riding your bike? Or is it an optional headgear? Are there federal state laws indicating that both operators and passengers must wear helmets?
If you’ve ever asked yourself these questions, this article will give you some answers and point you in the right direction.
It’s important to note that bicycle helmet laws in the United States have been very unclear from the very beginning. Not only are they scattered, but they can also be difficult to keep up with.
Because many states, such as Pennsylvania, Maryland, and California, leave this work to municipalities, whether or not you get a ticket for riding a bike without a helmet will vary depending on where you live and where you ride your bike.
Bike Helmet Law Varies From State to State
It’s legal and illegal to ride your bike without a helmet, depending on where you live.
For example, California and Alabama have helmet laws, whereas states like Alaska, Kansas, and Michigan don’t. In the case of California, bike operators and passengers must wear helmets if the passenger is under 18.
Even in the states where you can get a ticket if you don’t wear a helmet, you can still ride your bike freely. That’s because this rule only applies to a certain age limit. For example, if you’re above 18, and you’re not carrying a passenger, you won’t be arrested for not wearing a helmet.
The municipal law can also determine whether it’s okay to ride your bike without a helmet or otherwise. So make sure you check with the local authority to know if you can get aa fine for riding a bike without wearing your helmet.
Many States Limit Bike Helmet Laws Mostly to Children
The United States doesn’t have any federal law regarding bike helmets. According to a publication by this site, there are only states and local laws. And while these were adopted in 1987, many states and municipalities limit them to children under 18.
As of this writing, there are only 22 states with statewide laws, with more than 200 local ordinances.
An article published by Times Standard (1) in 2019 reveals that wearing a helmet is mandatory for kids 18 and below. Any minor that fails to comply with this rule can get a ticket effective immediately.
According to the same report, failure to wear a helmet is not a criminal offense, and a minor, once ticketed, can waive it by taking a bike safety course. However, if they refuse to take the course, the child’s parent will have to pay a fine of $25 for not wearing a helmet when cycling.
A Few States Have Bike Laws that Apply to All Ages
While state and local bike helmet laws mainly target children, some states have law that affect cyclists of all ages. According to this article, there are 49 all-ages laws, which apply to all bike users. It’s important to note that these are not state laws, just local ordinances.
Does It Mean It's Legal to Ride My Bike Without a Helmet?
You can ride your bike without a helmet, as long as you’re not under 18. However, this doesn’t make you immune to physical trouble.
You see, manufacturers designed helmets for an important reason:
To provide the protection that you need to keep your head safe if you ever fall from your bike. In fact, a report published by Bicycle Universe here reveals that wearing a helmet can reduce fatal head injuries by up to 65%. Further, the report shows that a bike helmet can lower facial injuries by 33% and serious head damages by 60%.
The same report shows that, in 2016, 835 deaths were bike related. About 51% of these people would have survived if they wore helmets.
The study tells you something, doesn’t it?
If you want to protect your head and face in the event of a bike-related accident, you should wear a helmet.
There may not be federal bike helmet law, and you may not even get a ticket if you cycle in your cycling cap alone. But if you want to stay safe on the road and return home with minor or no injury at all, wear a helmet.
What’s the Right Bike Helmet for Cyclists?
A good bike helmet is the one that fits well. It shouldn’t be too big or too small. You can click here to learn how to measure a bike helmet. The guide will help you to choose a helmet that fits straight out of the box.
From a design standpoint, a good helmet should feature the right material built. Make sure the shell is made of impact-resistant plastic. The liner underneath the shell should have a shock-absorbing foam. And the polypropylene or nylon straps should be strong and durable enough to stand up to elements like dust and moisture.
Choose a bike helmet that has enough vents. We like to assume that seven vents are enough. But if you can find a helmet that has more than that, go for it. After all, the more vents a helmet has, the better the ventilation. Vents ensure consistent airflow to keep your head cooler and your cycling session more comfortable.
While a visor isn’t a necessary feature in a helmet, it can be a cool thing. At the end of the day, the visor protects your eyes from direct sunlight, and they make the best alternatives to cycling sunglasses. Visors are mostly common on mountain bike helmets.
If you find a helmet with a Multi-directional Impact Protection System, go for it. The technology goes beyond absorbing impact from a collision. It also reduces the number of rotations that can result from the impact. Also, it absorbs as much impact as possible, making sure that the force that gets to your head is something your body can handle.
Price would be the last thing to consider. Fortunately, some brands design high-quality bike helmets for cheap, so you'll find them quite handy if you're on a tight budget. If the product's price is not an issue, feel free to pick a model that meets the safety standards.