California Motorcycle Helmet Laws
I’m Ed Smith, a Motorcycle Accident Attorney in Sacramento. California is one of just 19 states to require all motorcycle riders to wear helmets. While helmets that are in accordance with federal safety standards have shown to successfully prevent fatal injuries to motorcycle riders, the number of states mandating their use has somehow gone down instead of going up.
This is because many Americans do not want to be micromanaged. The nanny state is not really a favorite for so many.
California is called the universal helmet law state because it requires every motorcycle rider and passenger to wear a helmet. On the other hand, a partial helmet law state would only require motorcycle riders under a certain age (such as 19 years) to wear a helmet.
Legislative Intent behind the Helmet Law
According to the NHTSA figures, eight out of 10 motorcycle crashes result in serious injury or death of the motorcycle rider or the passenger. A detailed study covering motorcycle accidents over a 10-year period showed that 7,400 lives were saved because of helmets, while 6,300 deaths occurred because the deceased was without a helmet.
The legislative intent behind California’s helmet laws was to ensure the safety of the motorcycle riders as well as their passengers. Therefore, the statute is not limited to motorcycles alone, and also includes motorized bicycles and motor-driven cycles.
California passed the law for mandatory helmet use in 1992. A year later, the state recorded a 37 percent reduction in motorcycle-related deaths. The risk of head injury occurring in a motorcycle accident goes down by as much as 69 percent if helmet use is made compulsory for all motorcycle riders and passengers.
What the Law Says
Under Section 27803 of California Vehicle Code, every motorcycle rider and passenger is required to wear a helmet when riding on a motorcycle, motor-driven cycle, or motorized cycle. Furthermore, the law also makes it illegal for a passenger with a helmet to ride with a motorcycle rider who is without a helmet. Similarly, a motorcycle rider wearing a helmet may still receive a ticket as per the law if their passenger is without a helmet.
The interpretation of laws relating to penalties for motorcycle riders in California who violate the Vehicle Code has been a subject of some debate. The position of the Highway Patrol in California (CHP), which has been supported by the courts in the state, is that riding a motorcycle without a helmet can be punishable by imposing a fine. This position rejects the other side of this debate, which insists that any violation of the helmet law is an equipment ticket, which may be corrected in order to avoid a fine.
Specific Type of Helmet
Under the helmet laws in California, a motorcycle rider and a passenger are required to wear helmets that conform to the standards followed by the state. These standards are identical to the US DOT standards. The US DOT has set minimum standards of safety for motorcycle helmets that can be sold in the country. The minimum requirements include:
- The helmet must have a thick inner lining. The lining is typically at least one inch thick and is made of polystyrene foam.
- The chin straps of the helmet should be of a sturdy quality, and should be fixed to the helmet shell using solid rivets (as shown in the show Sons of Anarchy).
- Helmets that conform to the federal minimum standards typically weigh a minimum of three pounds.
- The helmet design should be such that nothing must protrude from the helmet shell exceeding one-fifth of an inch.
Helmets that are manufactured in accordance with the minimum standards of DOT should affix a sticker that certifies this fact.
Legal Meaning of “Wear a Helmet”
The Vehicle Code of California attempts to prevent a motorcycle rider from avoiding compliance by wearing a helmet at a place other than the head. It clearly defines the act of wearing a helmet as having it on the individual’s head along with chin straps fastened securely to the helmet shell. The helmet fit should be such that it limits excessive lateral or vertical movement.
More by Ed Smith, Sacramento Motorcycle Accident Attorney:
- The Unique Risks of Motorcycle Riding
- California Insurance Requirements For Motorcycles
- Motorcycle Accident Claims
Motorcycle Accident Attorney in Sacramento
I’m Edward Smith, a Sacramento Motorcycle Accident Attorney. If you or someone you love has been injured in a collision caused by the negligence of another party reach out to me by calling (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400 for free, friendly, and compassionate advice. In the alternative, you can reach me on my website, AutoAccident.com.
Since 1982 I have worked to help injured people and their families recover in cases invovling personal injury and wrongful death. You can find some of my valued client reviews on: Yelp, Google and Avvo.
I have been recognized by the Million Dollar Forum, a prestigious group for trial lawyers who have won million dollar verdicts and settlements for their clients.
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