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- The ARC - California Edition -

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Helmet Use Laws - Motorcycles

Early this year, there was a major event that occurred in our state capitol, Sacramento. Some California bikers came roaring through the city’s streets accompanied by the loud strains of “Born to be wild”. They soon were standing on the steps of the state capitol noisily demanding: “Repeal the helmet law, or else!” 

A few of the braver demonstrators decided to confront Assemblyman Dick Floyd, the author of the 1991 law which mandated the use of safety helmets when riding a motorcycle. This law mandates that ALL motorcyclists wear a safety helmet if they are to ride a motorcycle, motor driven cycle, or motorized bicycle on the public roads of this state. 

As expected, Floyd lived up to his reputation as being our Legislature’s own “Hell’s Angel”. After hearing a number of similar demands from the motorcyclists, he gave them some of his own advice. “Get a life,” he said. “The Highway Patrol statistics show that the helmet law is working and saving lives.”

Serious head injury is common among fatally injured motorcyclists. Helmet use has been proven to be very effective in reducing these head injuries. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a motorcycle rider without a safety helmet is 40 percent more likely to suffer a fatal head injury when compared with a helmeted rider. 

The state of California results have been much better than these national figures. In California, the peak numbers of those killed or injured within this state have dropped by over 75% during the past 15 years. This is a very significant decrease.

There are 22 states, including California, which have laws requiring all motorcycle riders to wear safety helmets. These states are Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, plus the District of Columbia.

Twenty-five additional states require helmet use for their young riders. Only three states, Colorado, Illinois, and Iowa have no law at all. 

Helmet use rates approach 100 percent in the states where a motorcycle helmet laws applies to all riders. The 25 states with laws applying only to minors have helmet use rates of about 50%.


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