Attached here is a booklet I did a few years ago outlining basic motorcycle laws in each State. Unless something has changed recently it still appears to be current. It’s a PDF file, just print it, fold it in half and staple or otherwise bind it in the middle. This Riders Booklet can be downloaded here.

At last look there are four (4) States that do not have helmet laws… Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, and New Hampshire.

Twenty (20) States have a mandatory helmet law for all riders:  Alabama, California, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia. But each of these States’ motorcycle helmet laws may have differing definitions and specifics. For example, West Virginia requires a reflector on the helmet which is in conflict with the DOT code that no stickers or modifications should be on a DOT Approved helmet.  As a visitor, don’t worry about it, just wear the thing.  Likened to tinted windows, if it’s legal in your State it will be overlooked if you’re passing through.

The most common loophole in mandatory laws seems to be the term “on highways”, which leaves the requirement of a helmet to ride down to the neighborhood market open to interpretation. If you want to be a real pain you should research your State’s helmet laws more closely; but remember, if you use such a loophole you better be following the letter of the law otherwise because they’ll probably start watching you.

Nineteen (19) States have helmet laws that exempt adult riders who are 18 years old and over. These are the States of Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming.  Delaware wants you to have a helmet with you whether you wear it or not.

And there are seven (7) States that require adult bikers up to age 20 to still wear helmets while riding their motorcycles. These are Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Texas.  Texas has a medical insurance clause.

I’ve noticed that some States are entertaining the idea of requiring the use of a helmet for X amount of time within getting a motorcycle endorsement or while having a permit. I personally find this much more sensible than a full mandatory law since a large percentage of accidents happen in that first year.  Why punish people who have been riding since before anyone had a helmet law?

Me?  Unless I just need a break from it, I wear a helmet on road trips – it’s just good sense traveling that fast; but around town you’ll rarely see me in one (unless it’s really cold or raining or the law). I’m less likely to turn my head or look over my shoulder with a helmet on, for me they are “unbalancing” and distracting. Every accident I’ve had was a direct result of having a helmet on.

Full-type helmets block the very things that have kept me alive all these years – hearing the car next to me, using peripheral vision, being aware of what’s going on around me for safety and quick maneuvers like locating places in a strange city, and most importantly the presence of pedestrians.

In my opinion, nothing is more dangerous than a helmet & face shield in a high pedestrian area – particularly at night.  You need to have all your senses working for you in such situations. Those helmets are also like automobiles, they give you a false sense of security.  You are more likely to travel much faster than you would without a helmet and take chances you might not otherwise take.  Make a note of that, you’ll see it’s true.

But that’s me and doesn’t have anything to do with you.

Safety is safety and if you feel you should wear a helmet – you should.  Don’t ever second-guess yourself about something like that. Wearing one or not wearing one is not going to make you look cool, it’s what you think that’s important… it’s your own personal safety issue.  Anyone who condemns you for wearing one or not wearing one should be considered the Village Idiot.

That’s my 2-cents on the subject.

– Capt. Walker


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