An Optional but Safer Choice for Riders
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), as far back as 2015, 58 percent of motorcycle riders who were fatally injured in accidents were not wearing a helmet, as opposed to eight percent in states with all-rider helmet laws. The NHTSA estimates that helmets likely saved the lives of 1,772 motorcyclists that year, and another 740 could have been spared if all motorcyclists had been wearing helmets.
Motorcycle Helmet Laws
In 1967, the federal government required states to pass helmet laws in order to qualify for certain safety programs and highway funding, and by 1975, all but three states — Illinois, Iowa, and New Hampshire — had complied by enacting universal helmet laws. However, in 1976, states lobbied Congress to stop the Department of Transportation from imposing financial penalties on states without helmet laws, and currently, only 19 states and the District of Columbia have laws requiring that all motorcyclists wear a helmet. Twenty-eight states, including Colorado, have motorcycle helmet requirements for those below a certain age.
State motorcycle helmet laws generally fall into four categories:
- Required for all
- Required for everyone under age 21
- Required for everyone under age 18
- Not required for anyone.
According to the Colorado Department of Transportation, “Although motorcycle helmets have been proven to save lives, riders age 18 and over are not required to wear helmets in Colorado. However, if the motorcycle operator or passengers are under age 18, they must wear DOT-approved helmets.” So why don’t all states have universal motorcycle helmet laws?
Opposition to Universal Helmet Laws
According to RideApart, helmet laws are a constant source of debate among riders. “Without a national law saying that helmets are or are not required (despite the CDC’s efforts), we’ve ended up with a seemingly random set of laws that are different in whatever state you’re in.” While some believe that every rider should wear a helmet for their own safety, others don’t dispute the value of helmets but say every motorcyclist has a right to choose whether to wear one. However, the tricky part comes when riding from state to state — riders need to be aware of individual state laws regarding helmets so that they can always be in compliance.
For example, Colorado borders Wyoming and Nebraska to the north, Nebraska and Kansas to the east, Oklahoma and New Mexico to the south, and Utah to the west. While Colorado requires helmets for riders and passengers under 18, Wyoming, Kansas, New Mexico, and Oklahoma require motorcycle helmets for only riders under the age of 18. Nebraska requires that everyone wear a helmet, regardless of age.
According to a report published by the Connecticut Office of Legislative Research, supporters of universal helmet laws say that such laws dramatically lower the number of motorcycle-related deaths, injuries, and the economic costs connected with them, but opponents argue that these claims are exaggerated, that such laws infringe on personal freedom, and that a more comprehensive solution is needed to enhance motorcycle safety. Universal helmet laws are opposed by several motorcycle rider associations, including the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA).
Contact an Experienced Colorado Personal Injury Attorney
If you sustained an injury in a motorcycle accident in Colorado, contact the Law Offices of Daniel R. Rosen online or call 303-454-8000 or 800-ROSEN-911 to schedule your free initial consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney today.