Studies show that wearing a motorcycle helmet significantly decreases the likelihood of serious injury or death. You may think that all states would require motorcyclists to wear a helmet. However, only 19 states currently have universal helmet laws on the books. California is one of these states. Anyone riding on a motorcycle in California is required to wear a helmet at all times.

California Takes Steps to Keep Motorcyclists Safe

Did you know that 8 out of every 10 motorcycle accidents will result in serious injury or death? Motorcyclists (and their passengers) are much more likely to suffer a catastrophic or fatal injury in a crash. Wearing a helmet has been found to reduce the severity of rider injuries. In fact, simply wearing the proper helmet can reduce a motorcyclist’s risk of severe injury or death by 37 percent.
Sadly, the number of riders who are voluntarily wearing a helmet is on the decline. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the number of motorcyclists choosing to wear a helmet has dropped from 71 percent to 58 percent in recent years. At the same time, the rate of fatal motorcycle accidents has increased.
In 1992, California decided that it was going to do something about the rising number of motorcycle accidents across the state. One year after passing the universal helmet law, the number of motorcycle fatalities dropped by 37.5 percent.

California’s Universal Helmet Law

California Vehicle Code Section 27803 explains that it is illegal to “operate a motorcycle, motor-driven cycle, or motorized bicycle if the driver or any passenger is not wearing a safety helmet.” Simply put, it is against the law to ride on a motorcycle if you are not wearing a helmet. This applies to the person operating the motorcycle, as well as any passengers.
California’s helmet law is considered a “universal” helmet law. This means that it applies to all motorcyclists, regardless of age. Many states across the country have “partial” helmet laws in place. These typically require young riders, generally under the age of 18 or 19, to wear a helmet. However, adults do not have the same obligation. California knows that many motorcyclists won’t wear a helmet if there is no legal requirement. As a result, it chose to adopt a universal law.

Safety Helmets: Defined

California’s helmet law requires all riders and passengers to wear a “safety helmet.” Over the past few years, there have been many technological advances that have made helmets even more effective. Federal safety regulations often require the use of these safe helmets. The state reserves the right to establish safety specifications and standards for all helmets sold and used in California. You can be certain that these state specifications meet the following minimum federal guidelines.

  • Helmet Weight: An appropriate safety helmet should weigh approximately three pounds.
  • Chin Straps: Safety helmets must have a chin strap that is attached with sturdy rivets.
  • Liner: The interior of all safety helmets must be fitted with a 1-inch thick firm polystyrene foam liner.
  • Design: Safety helmets must not have features or functions that protrude more than two-tenths of an inch from the outer surface. An exception can be made for visor fasteners.

How Do I Know If My Helmet Is Approved for Use in San Diego?

There are a lot of different motorcycle safety helmets on the market. How can you be sure that the one you buy satisfies strict state and federal regulations? Retailers and manufacturers will want you to know that their helmets satisfy Department of Transportation (DOT) safety standards. Check for stickers, labels, or tags that indicate minimum requirements are met. Place a DOT sticker on the helmet after purchase to let police know that you’re wearing appropriate safety equipment.

Wearing Your Safety Helmet in San Diego

In California, all riders and passengers must “wear” a safety helmet. What exactly does this mean? Fortunately, the universal helmet law provides some clarity. You will be considered to be “wearing” a helmet in compliance with state law if:

  • The helmet fits your head securely;
  • The straps are fastened under your chin; and
  • The helmet does not move (laterally or vertically) when it is fastened.

Wearing a helmet means making sure that it fits right and is fastened tightly. You will be found in violation of the law if your helmet is loose or if the straps are hanging on the side of your face.

Consequences of Not Wearing a Helmet in San Diego

There are three primary consequences of not wearing a helmet in San Diego: injury, criminal, and civil.

Injury or Death

Not wearing a helmet while riding on a motorcycle increases the likelihood of suffering a serious injury or dying in an accident. An injury can trigger tens of thousands, if not millions, of dollars in financial costs. These costs will likely be even greater if your injury prevents you from going back to work. If a motorcycle accident is fatal, your family will suffer the greatest loss possible. There is no bringing you back after a deadly motorcycle accident. You can reduce these risks by more than one-third if you simply wear a helmet.

Criminal Penalties

It is a crime to ride on a motorcycle without a helmet in San Diego. If you are cited for this violation of state law, you may be required to pay $250 in fines and complete one year of probation.

Civil Consequences

If you are injured in a motorcycle accident you may be entitled to compensation. However, if you were not wearing a helmet, it can be hard to get the money you need. Others involved in your accident will point out that you could have reduced the seriousness of your injury if you had been wearing a helmet. When this is established, you may be forced to accept some degree of fault. This will directly impact any damages that you are able to recover for your injuries.

Need Legal Help?

Have you recently been injured in a San Diego motorcycle accident? Call Injury Trial Lawyers, APC for immediate legal assistance. We will review your case and help you understand your legal options. If you want to file a claim, we will fight to maximize any financial award you receive. Call us today to schedule your free case assessment.

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