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Motorcycle Helmet Laws and Safety (USA)

Ride Free, Ride Safe: Helmet Laws and Safety

I love riding a motorcycle. Love it. The sense of freedom is unmatched by any other form of transportation. Riding with the wind in my hair is amazing. However, most states impose safety regulations that limit how much freedom we have on our bikes.

Where Can I Ride Helmet-Free?

There are only two states that have no helmet laws: Illinois and Iowa. These states do regulate helmet manufacturers, but there are no fines or other punishments for anyone riding without a helmet. In fact, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that helmet laws were unconstitutional. Iowa also once had a helmet law, but it was repealed in 1986.

It's also legal to ride without a helmet in Florida and Michigan, within certain restrictions. In those states, helmetless riders must be over the age of 21. However, both require that helmetless riders carry insurance. Florida requires health coverage of no less than $10,000, and Michigan requires coverage of at least $20,000. In New Hampshire, those over 18 can legally ride without a helmet.

Partial Freedom

There are 27 states that are partially free and 19 that have no allowances for helmetless riders. You can check your state's requirements using this handy map, provided by a Pennsylvania law firm. If you are unsure about your local helmet laws, be sure to contact your state's Department of Transportation or whatever state agency regulates motor vehicle laws.

Shopping Helmets at an Online Motorcycle Parts Store

Whether the state requires a helmet or not, safety is important, and we all need to operate our bikes within the bounds of the law. Thus, when I point my browser to an online motorcycle parts store, there are certain things I'm looking for. First, I want a helmet that looks good. You've got to look good, right? Then, I check out the style. I prefer full-face helmets. I think they're attractive and add to my aerodynamics.

Since I know my size, I'm confident that the helmet will fit, but I'm also interested in safety. After all, if I have to wear a helmet, I want to make sure that it will do what it's supposed to. There's no room for excess baggage on my bike.

When my new helmet arrives in the mail, I'm sure to check a few things:

*Size: Even though I'm confident my helmet will fit, before I get on my bike, I make sure the helmet is snug and not at all loose on my head.
* Fit: My helmet should ride just above my eyebrows. I check this in the mirror, and I ask my wife to take a look, too.
*Strap: I need confidence in my chin strap. I make sure it's comfortable and under my chin. I tighten the strap and ensure that my helmet doesn't wobble at all.
DOT Certification: The U.S. Department of Transportation certifies helmets to. Make sure your helmet has a DOT sticker on the rear exterior. This ensures that your helmet meets the US Government's minimum safety standards. Without this certification, your helmet may not be legal.

SNELL Certified Helmets

The Snell Foundation has been testing helmets since 1957. It's an independent organization that looks for one thing: performance. I trust that philosophy. Snell has upgraded its testing equipment and methods over the years, and I truly believe the people who work there are dedicated to the safety of riders. The Snell website lists a few important guidelines for choosing a helmet, the chief one being whether or not the helmet carries a Snell sticker of approval.

Helmets are an integral part of the motorcycle riding experience so choose wisely! An experienced online retailer is your best bet when shopping. Now sure how to fit a new helmet? Read our guide to finding the right size helmet. Further reading about how to convince your significant other to let you buy a motorcycle is highly recommended!


Recommended Reading
Dant, Alastair and Fairfield, Hannah. "Fewer Helmets, More Deaths." New York Times, 2014.
By Daniel Relich

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