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Two riders on a motorcycle.

Helmet Laws

Motorcycle Helmets

In 1967, the federal government required states to enact universal motorcycle helmet laws to qualify for certain highway safety funds. By 1975, all but three had complied. In 1976, Congress revoked federal authority to assess penalties for noncompliance, and states began to weaken helmet laws to apply only to young or novice riders.

Currently, about half the states require helmets for all motorcyclists. Most other states require helmets for certain riders, and a few have no helmet law. GHSA urges all states to adopt a universal motorcycle helmet law and vigorously enforce existing laws.

Bicycle Helmets

Learn More About Bicycle Safety

Issue Brief

Related Links

Fewer states have enacted bicycle helmet laws. GHSA only tracks state laws. However, many localities require helmet use for some or all bicyclists.

NOTE: GHSA does not compile any additional data on helmet laws other than what is presented here. For more information, consult the appropriate State Highway Safety Office.

State Motorcyclists Bicyclists
Universal Helmet Law (Year Enacted) Partial Law Universal Helmet Law Repealed
Alabama 1967     <16
Alaska   <18 or instructional permit;
all passengers
1976  
Arizona   <18 1976  
Arkansas   <21 1997  
California 1992     <18
Colorado   <18; all passengers <18 1977  
Connecticut   <18 1976 <16
Delaware   <19 1978 <18
D.C. 1970     <16
Florida   <21 or those with <$10,000 in medical coverage for motorcycle-related injuries 2000 <16
Georgia 1969     <16
Guam   <18    
Hawaii   <18 1977 <16
Idaho   <18 1978  
Illinois     1970  
Indiana   <18 1977  
Iowa     1976  
Kansas   <18 1976  
Kentucky   <21 or licensed <1 yr.;
no medical insurance
1998  
Louisiana 2004     <12
Maine   Licensed <1 yr.;
all passengers <18
1977 <16
($25 fine for 2nd or subsequent violation)
Maryland 1992     <16
Massachusetts 1967     >1 and <17
(<1 prohibited)
Michigan   <21 or no additional insurance (riders and passengers) 2012  
Minnesota   <18 or instructional permit 1977  
Mississippi 1974      
Missouri 1967      
Montana   <18 1977  
Nebraska 1989      
Nevada 1972      
New Hampshire       <16
New Jersey 1968     <17
New Mexico   <18 1977 <18
New York 1967     >1 and <14
(<1 prohibited)
North Carolina 1968     <16
North Dakota   <18; all passengers if operator is <18 1977  
Northern Mariana Islands Yes     <18
Ohio   <18 or licensed <1 yr.; all passengers if operator required to wear helmet 1978  
Oklahoma   <18 1976  
Oregon 1988     <16
Pennsylvania   <21 or licensed <2 yrs. except those who complete a PnnDOT- or Motorcycle Safety Foundation-approved safety course 2003 <12
Puerto Rico Yes      
Rhode Island   <21 or licensed <1 yr.;
all passengers
1976 <16
South Carolina   <21 1980  
South Dakota   <18 1977  
Tennessee 1967     <16
Texas   <21; those who have not completed safety course or have no medical insurance (secondarily enforced) 1997  
Utah   <18 1977  
Vermont 1968      
Virgin Islands Yes     All
Virginia 1970      
Washington 1990      
West Virginia 1971     <15
Wisconsin   <18 or instructional permit 1978  
Wyoming   <18 1983  
Totals States 47 + D.C., Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands 31 states have had a universal helmet law repealed 21 + D.C., Northern Mariana Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands

Age (# of States)
All (Virgin Islands)
<18 (3 + Northern Mariana Islands)
<17 (2)
<16 (12 + D.C.)
<15 (1)
<14 (1)
<12 (2)
19 + D.C., Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands 28 + Guam

Age (# of States)

<21 (8)
<19 (1)
<18 (18 + Guam)
Passengers <18 (1)

Sources: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and State Highway Safety Offices.