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Do You Need to Wear a Helmet on a Motorcycle in California?

Katie GesseckKatie Gesseck

Riding a motorcycle is an inherently risky and dangerous activity. Not only are the other vehicles on the road, at a minimum, three times your size, but you are also very exposed, often with little to no protection. This leaves motorcyclists particularly susceptible to accidents, many of which can lead to life-altering and even fatal injuries. While each state has specific laws and regulations when it comes to wearing helmets on a motorcycle, let’s dissect the laws pertaining to California.

California’s Helmet Law

According to California Vehicle Code 27803 (CVC 27803), motorcyclists and their passengers must wear a helmet at all times while riding a motorcycle. The law further specifies that the helmet must be compliant with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 218. Adhering to wearing this type of helmet helps to keep motorcyclists safe and helps to prevent severe head injuries, such as a traumatic brain injury.

How To Wear the Helmet

Not only does CVS 27803 specify what kind of helmet you must wear on a motorcycle in California, but it also details what it means to wear a safety helmet. According to the law, it is considered to meet the safety requirements only if the helmet is fastened with helmet straps and fits the motorcyclists head securely, without any excessive lateral or vertical movement. Essentially, you can’t just plop the helmet on your head and call it a day. You must ensure that it is the proper size and is well secured with a chin strap. Failure to do this is illegal and will also significantly diminish the benefits that come along with wearing a helmet. 

Choosing the Right Helmet

There are a few additional elements under FMVSS 218 that one must keep in mind when purchasing a helmet. First, to be U.S. DOT certified, the helmet must have manufacturer applied lettering on the back. Some helmet companies will put unofficial stickers on their helmets to try and make them look more reliable. Therefore, you must beware of these deceiving stickers and make sure that you purchase a helmet with an official, non-removable “DOT” label on the back. You also want to be conscientious of the weight of the helmet you are purchasing, as one that meets FMVSS 218 should be roughly three pounds. Lastly, FMVSS 218 also does not allow any part of the helmet to extend more than two-tenths of an inch from the surface to ensure maximum safety. 

Motorcycle Accident Statistics

In looking at how effective helmets are when it comes to motorcycle accidents, the statistics speak for themselves. According to a study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 25,000 lives were saved from wearing a motorcycle helmet between 2000 and 2017. Additionally, motorcycle helmets are reported to be about 37% effective for drivers and 41% effective for passengers in preventing fatal motorcycle injuries. Therefore, it really seems like a no-brainer to wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle. 

What To Do if You Are in a Motorcycle Accident

Motorcycle accidents can be incredibly dangerous and even fatal, particularly if you are not wearing a helmet. Even if it weren’t required by law in California, it would still be in your best interest to wear a motorcycle helmet, as doing so can only help you. Winding up in a motorcycle accident can be very serious and complicated, meaning you will need the expertise of a motorcycle accident attorney from Martinian Lawyers to help protect and fight for you. Next time you are riding a motorcycle in California, make sure to wear a U.S. DOT compliant helmet and ride safely on the road!

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