A helmet is by far the most important and most effective piece of protective equipment a motorcycle driver or passenger can wear. Helmets save lives by reducing the extent of head injuries in the event of a traffic accident. A helmetless motorcyclist involved in an accident is three times as likely to suffer a brain injury as a motorcyclist wearing a helmet.
When a motorcycle is struck or falls during operation, the rider’s head often hits the pavement, and an extremely high percentage of motorcyclists die each year because of head injuries sustained in accidents. Because of this danger, motorcycle operators and passengers in many states are required by statute to wear safety helmets.
Mandatory Helmet Laws
Despite being an unpopular move among some motorcyclists, a number of states have enacted statutes requiring the use of protective equipment when riding a motorcycle. Some of these laws require that a motorcycle rider and/or his or her passenger wear equipment such as goggles or face shields, but most common (and most controversial) are those laws that require the wearing of a helmet.
Mandatory helmet laws for motorcycle operators and their passengers have, for the most part, proven to be an effective strategy in both increasing helmet use and reducing head injuries and fatalities in motorcycle accidents nationwide. But, while having an unmistakably positive effect on the overall safety of motorcycle riding, helmet laws have been met by resistance in the motorcycling community.
The most vocal opposition to helmet laws has come by way of challenges to the legality of the laws themselves. Although in some cases, specific language in helmet statutes has been successfully attacked on constitutional grounds, the principle of requiring motorcyclists and their passengers to wear safety helmets has consistently been upheld as constitutional.