Motorcycle helmet use

October 2014

Motorcycle helmet laws vary widely among the states and have changed a lot in the past half a century. Currently, 19 states and the District of Columbia have laws requiring all motorcyclists to wear a helmet, known as universal helmet laws. Laws requiring only some motorcyclists to wear a helmet are in place in 28 states. There is no motorcycle helmet use law in three states (Illinois, Iowa and New Hampshire).

In the past, many more states had universal helmet laws, thanks to pressure from the federal government. In 1967, states were required to enact helmet use laws in order to qualify for certain federal safety programs and highway construction funds. The federal incentive worked. By the early 1970s, almost all the states had universal motorcycle helmet laws. However, in 1976, states successfully lobbied Congress to stop the Department of Transportation from assessing financial penalties on states without helmet laws.

Low-power cycle is a generic term used by IIHS to cover motor-driven cycles, mopeds, scooters, and various other 2-wheeled cycles excluded from the motorcycle definition. While state laws vary, a cycle with an engine displacement of 50 cubic centimeters or less, brake horsepower of 2 or less, and top speeds of 30 mph or less typically is considered an low-power cycle. Twenty-three states have motorcycle helmet laws that cover all low-power cycles. Twenty-four states and the District of Columbia have laws that cover some low-power cycles.

    Coverage changes with effective dates Riders covered by current law
State Effective date of original (universal law covering all riders, except as noted) Repeal Changes other than repeal Universal (covers all riders) Partial (covers only young riders or some adult riders)
Alabama 11/06/67 no repeal or coverage changes since 11/06/67
Alaska 01/01/71 06/23/76 (reduced coverage to 17 and younger) since 06/23/76:
• 17 and younger
• passengers
• instructional permit holders
Arizona 01/01/69 05/27/76 (reduced coverage to 17 and younger) 17 and younger since 05/27/76
Arkansas 06/29/67 1997 (reduced coverage to 20 and younger) 20 and younger since 1997
California 01/01/85 (covered ages 15, 6 months or younger) 01/01/92 (expanded to universal coverage) since 01/01/92
Colorado 07/01/69 05/20/77 07/01/07 (reinstated coverage for 17 and younger)   17 and younger and their passengers 17 and younger as of 07/01/07
Connecticut 10/01/67 06/76 01/01/90 (reinstated coverage for 17 and younger) 17 and younger since 01/90
Delaware 06/21/68 06/10/78 (reduced coverage to 18 and younger) 18 and younger since 06/10/78
District of Columbia 02/11/70 no repeal or coverage changes since 02/11/70
Florida 09/13/67 07/01/00 (reduced coverage to exclude 21 and older with medical insurance) since 07/01/00:
• 20 and younger
• 21 and older with less than $10,000 in medical insurance
Georgia 07/01/69 no repeal or coverage changes since 07/01/69
Hawaii 06/04/67 06/07/77 (reduced coverage to 17 and younger) 17 and younger since 06/07/77
Idaho 01/01/68 03/29/78 (reduced coverage to 17 and younger) 17 and younger since 03/29/78
Illinois 07/01/69 07/01/70 no motorcycle helmet law since the 07/01/70 repeal
Indiana 07/26/67 08/77 01/84 (reinstated coverage for 17 and younger) 17 and younger since 01/84
Iowa 09/01/75 07/01/76 no motorcycle helmet law since the 01/01/76 repeal
Kansas 07/01/67 07/01/70 (reduced coverage to 20 and younger); 07/01/72 (reinstated universal coverage); 07/01/76 (reduced coverage to 15 and younger); 07/01/79 (expanded to 17 and younger) 17 and younger since 07/01/79
Kentucky 06/13/68 07/15/98 (reduced coverage to 20 and younger) since 07/15/98:
• 20 and younger
• instruction permit holders and operators licensed less than 1 year
Louisiana 07/31/68 10/01/76 (reduced coverage to 17 and younger); 01/01/82 (reinstated universal coverage); 08/15/99 (returned to partial coverage by exempting riders 18+ with medical insurance); 08/15/04 (reinstated universal coverage) since 08/15/04
Maine 10/07/67 10/77 07/80 (reinstated coverage for ages 14 and younger)

09/09 (increases coverage to ages 17 and younger)
since 07/80:
• 14 and younger
• instruction permit holders and operators licensed less than 1 year
• passengers if operators are covered by the helmet law

as of 09/09:
• 17 and younger
• instruction permit holders and operators licensed less than 1 year
• passengers if operators are covered by the helmet law
Maryland 07/01/68 07/01/79 (reduced coverage to 17 and younger); 10/01/92 (reinstated universal coverage) since 10/01/92
Massachusetts 05/22/67 no repeal or coverage changes since 05/22/67
Michigan 03/10/67 06/12/68 07/29/69 (reinstated universal coverage); 04/12/12 (reduced coverage to exclude 21 and older with medical insurance) since 04/12/12:
• 20 and younger
• 21 and older with less than $20,000 in medical insurance
Minnesota 05/01/68 04/06/77 (reduced coverage to 17 and younger) since 04/06/77:
• 17 and younger
• instruction permit holders
Mississippi 03/28/74 no repeal or coverage changes since 03/28/74
Missouri 09/28/67 no repeal or coverage changes since 09/28/67
Montana 07/01/73 07/01/77 (reduced coverage to 17 and younger) 17 and younger since 07/01/77
Nebraska 05/29/67 09/02/77 01/01/89 (reinstated universal coverage) since 01/01/89
Nevada 01/01/72 no repeal or coverage changes since 01/01/72
New Hampshire 09/05/67 08/07/77 (reduced coverage to 17 and younger until federal law ceases to require a motorcycle helmet law as a condition for the receipt of federal funds); 9/30/95 (repeal of federal law requiring helmet laws for federal funds voided helmet use requirement in NH) no motorcycle helmet law since 09/30/95 when federal incentives for helmet laws were eliminated
New Jersey 01/01/68 no repeal or coverage changes since 01/01/68
New Mexico 06/16/67 03/31/78 (reduced coverage to 17 and younger) 17 and younger since 03/31/78
New York 01/01/67 no repeal or coverage changes since 01/01/67
North Carolina 01/01/68 no repeal or coverage changes since 01/01/68
North Dakota 07/01/67 07/01/77 (reduced coverage to 17 and younger) since 07/01/77:
• 17 and younger
• passengers if operators are covered by the helmet law
Ohio 01/01/68 07/10/78 (reduced coverage to 17 and younger) since 07/10/78:
• 17 and younger
• operators licensed less than 1 year
• passengers if operators are covered by the helmet law
Oklahoma 04/27/67 1969 (reduced coverage to 20 and younger); 1975 (reinstated universal coverage); 05/21/76 (reduced coverage to 17 and younger) 17 and younger since 05/21/76
Oregon 01/01/68 10/04/77 (reduced coverage to 17 and younger); 06/16/88 (reinstated universal coverage) since 06/16/88
Pennsylvania 07/15/68 09/04/03 (reduced coverage to 20 and younger) since 09/04/03:
• 20 and younger
• operators 21 and older licensed less than 2 years who have not completed an approved safety course
• passengers 21 and older if operators are covered by the helmet law
Rhode Island 04/04/67 05/21/76 (repealed helmet requirement for motorcycle operators, but not passengers); 07/92 (expanded coverage to operators 20 and younger) since 07/92:
• 20 and younger
• passengers
• operators licensed less than 1 year
South Carolina 07/01/67 06/16/80 (reduced coverage to 20 and younger) 20 and younger since 06/16/80
South Dakota 07/01/67 07/01/77 (reduced coverage to 17 and younger) 17 and younger since 07/01/77
Tennessee 06/04/67 no repeal or coverage changes since 06/04/67
Texas 01/01/68 08/29/77 (reduced coverage to 17 and younger); 09/1/89 (reinstated universal coverage); 09/1/97 (reduced coverage by exempting 21+ who either have completed a motorcycle education course or who have medical insurance) since 09/01/97:
• 20 and younger
• 21 and older with less than $10,000 in medical insurance who have not taken a motorcycle education course
Utah 05/13/69 (covered riders on roads posted for speeds higher than 35 mph) 05/10/77 (reduced coverage to 17 and younger) 17 and younger since 05/10/77
Vermont 03/06/68 no repeal or coverage changes since 03/06/68
Virginia 06/26/70 no repeal or coverage changes since 06/26/70
Washington 06/08/67 09/21/77 07/87 (reinstated coverage for 17 and younger); 06/07/90 (reinstated universal coverage) since 06/07/90
West Virginia 05/25/71 no repeal or coverage changes since 05/25/71
Wisconsin 07/01/68 03/19/78 (reduced coverage to 17 and younger) since 03/18/78:
• 17 and younger
• instruction permit holders
Wyoming 05/24/73 05/27/83 (reduced coverage to 18 and younger)
07/01/93 (reduced coverage to 17 and younger)
17 and younger since 07/01/93