Four Facts and Statistics About Motorcycle Helmet Laws Across the USA


Unlike many other countries, there is no one law in the USA concerning motorcyclists wearing helmets. Instead, each state has different laws.

In some states, motorcycle helmets are mandatory for motorcyclists of certain ages, while in other states, there are no laws in place. 

So, if you plan on riding a motorcycle in the USA, you need to find out what the legislation is concerning wearing a helmet for your specific state. 

However, even if your state does not make it compulsory for you to wear a motorcycle helmet, you still should. The reason is simple: a helmet will protect you should you be involved in an accident. A helmet could even save your life. 

Now, let us take a look at four facts and stats about motorcycle helmet laws across the country. 

1. No States Had Motorcycle Helmet Laws Until 1966 and State Laws Have Changed Since

It was only in 1966 that the federal government began requiring states to enact its universal motorcycle helmet laws. By 1975, forty-eight states had adopted compulsory helmet use for certain motorcyclists. 

But after federal penalties were eliminated for states without universal motorcycle helmet laws in 1975, half of the states either weakened the laws or eliminated them altogether. 

Since then, various states have either weakened or reinstated motorcycle helmet laws.

2. Thousands of Lives Are Saved with Motorcycle Helmets

According to the latest statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, between 2002 and 2017, over 25,000 lives were saved by motorcyclists in the USA wearing helmets.

3. Sadly, Helmet Use Is Declining Among Motorcyclists in the USA

Thankfully, regardless of the specific state laws that are in place, the majority of motorcycle riders and passengers in the USA wear Department of Transportation-compliant helmets. 

According to the National Occupant Protection Use Survey, 64.9% of riders and passengers wore compliant helmets in 2021. 

However, at the same time, helmet use has actually decreased since 2002 by an alarming 12.5%. And since 2018, usage has decreased by 8.6%.

4. Helmet Laws Vary from State to State

As we briefly mentioned, each state has different laws concerning the wearing of motorcycle helmets. So, let us take a look in detail at how the laws vary.

Two States Have No Laws

In New Hampshire and Illinois, there are no state laws demanding motorcyclists and passengers wear helmets. 

So, that probably has something to do with the fact that only 36% of riders in Illinois wear motorcycle helmets. 

Of course, that means many motorcyclists are exposed to injuries like severe head injuries and neck injuries each year. 

While motorcycle accidents are not always the fault of the rider, and indeed, riders who are injured and not at fault can receive help from experienced motorcycle accident lawyers to pursue compensation, motorcyclists can avoid being seriously injured in the first place by ensuring they wear helmets, even if it is not compulsory.

Many States Require Motorcyclists of Certain Ages to Wear Helmets

In many states, motorcyclists and passengers who are below certain ages are required by law to wear helmets. 

Depending on the state, you could be legally required to wear a helmet if you are under the age of seventeen, eighteen, twenty, or twenty-five. 

Also, the type of bike you ride can affect the legality concerning the wearing of motorcycle helmets. In many states, moped riders are not legally obliged to wear helmets. 

You can find a full list of requirements per state by looking at this comprehensive list from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.