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California Helmet Laws

Every state upholds unique laws when it comes to helmet use. Some states only require helmets for motorcycle riders while others require them for all wheeled vehicle operators. Other states do not impose helmet laws, allowing riders to make their own decisions about personal safety. California residents who ride bicycles, electric scooters, motorized bikes, mopeds, and motorcycles must adhere to state laws when it comes to helmet use.

Helmet Laws in Various Parts of California

The California Vehicle Code Section 21212 dictates the state’s helmet laws for bicycle, motorized scooter, and motorized bicycle operation. All operators of these vehicles must wear appropriately fitted helmets that meet helmet safety specifications of the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) or the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Any child under the age of 18 must wear an appropriate helmet while riding a bicycle, skateboard, roller skates, or motorized scooter in most areas of California. Police officers have authority to issue tickets to riders under the age of 18 who fail to wear helmets as required by law, and the maximum fine for such a ticket is $25.

Some local jurisdictions expand the helmet law to include riders of all ages in some area. For example, Bidwell Park, the city of Chico, and El Cerrito all require riders of all ages to wear helmets at all times while riding bicycles. Additional helmet laws exist for motorcycles and electric scooters, and some new changes to California’s helmet laws are currently in the works.

Why Wear Helmets?

Helmet use remains a personal choice for most adults in California. The reality is that helmets increase safety and reduce the risk of fatal head injuries for all age groups. Even the safest rider cannot predict the actions of drivers and other people nearby. Wearing a helmet helps mitigate the damage when another party causes an accident.

Helmets reduce the risk of traumatic and fatal head injuries by a significant margin. This is especially true for motorcycle riders. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that motorcycle helmets can reduce the risk of fatal head injury by up to 37% and reduce the risk of serious head injuries by up to 67%. Considering that motorcycles and other open vehicles like mopeds and motorized bikes offer virtually no physical protection to their operators, wearing a helmet can be a life-saving choice.

Potential Injuries From Failure to Wear a Helmet

Even if state and local laws do not require you to wear a helmet, you must recognize the danger that accompanies the choice to not wear one. A bicycle accident, moped crash, or any other vehicle accident can easily lead to severe injuries. Traumatic brain injuries vary greatly in severity and symptoms, and while some people experience symptoms less acutely than others, traumatic brain injuries can cause lasting damage or even result in permanent disabilities.

A traumatic brain injury can potentially cause cognitive and intellectual impairment, lead to behavioral or personality changes, and alter sensory perception. Some people who suffer head injuries from failure to wear helmets require long-term treatment and ongoing care to readjust to normal life. Failure to wear a helmet can also have legal repercussions. For example, a jury could decide that your choice to not wear a helmet constitutes comparative negligence for a personal injury claim, reducing your potential recovery. If you or a loved one suffered from an accident that was not your fault, contact our San Jose injury lawyers to explore your legal options.

Best Practices

If you ride a bicycle, moped, electric scooter, or motorized bike in California, the helmet requirements may seem simple enough at first. However, you should take time to thoroughly investigate your options for appropriate headgear and invest in a high-quality helmet that offers a comfortable level of protection. Be sure to purchase one with ASTM, CPSC, or Department of Transportation certification. These helmets offer the best reliability and crash protection and can greatly reduce your risk of suffering a traumatic brain injury.