What are the motorcycle helmet laws in California? If you’re a motorcyclist – or even if you’re not, but you drive in California – you need to know.

Does helmet use reduce motorcycle injuries? And does helmet use make a difference if you’re injured and you seek compensation for your injuries?

California is among nineteen states that are “universal” helmet law states. California requires all operators of motorcycles – and their passengers – to wear a helmet that meets federal safety standards at all times the motorcycle is in operation.

California also makes it illegal for a helmeted passenger to ride with a driver who is not helmeted, and a helmeted driver may be ticketed if his or her passenger on a motorcycle is not helmeted.

Helmets have proven effective in preventing fatal injuries to riders and passengers.

IS THERE EVIDENCE THAT HELMETS REDUCE MOTORCYCLING INJURIES?

A motorcycle accident is always dangerous – there’s no such thing as a fender-bender when you ride a motorcycle.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that 80 percent of reported motorcycle accidents result in a death or a severe injury.

And when motorcyclists are killed in traffic accidents, it’s usually because of head injuries.

The NHSTA estimates that more than 19,000 motorcyclists survived accidents between 1984 and 2006 because they wore helmets.

One study of motorcycle accidents over a ten-year timeframe found that helmets prevented injuries or death to more than 7,400 riders, but 6,300 others died because they did not use a helmet.

WHAT DOES CALIFORNIA’S HELMET LAW REQUIRE?

Helmet laws are intended to protect both motorcyclists and their passengers. California’s helmet law is comprehensive – it also requires helmets for operators of electric and gas-powered bicycles.

California’s mandatory motorcycle helmet law was adopted in 1992. The next year, motorcycle-related fatalities in this state declined by 37 percent.

There has been some disagreement about what California’s helmet law requires in terms of a penalty.

The California Highway Patrol and California courts hold that breaking the law by riding without a helmet is punishable by a fine. Others believe the law only requires the ticketed offender to use a helmet from that point forward.

WHAT ARE THE FEDERAL STANDARDS FOR MOTORCYCLE HELMETS?

The U.S. Department of Transportation establishes minimum safety standards for every motorcycle helmet purchased in the United States. Federal law establishes the following requirements for motorcycle helmets:

1. A motorcycle helmet must have an inner liner at least one inch thick made from polystyrene foam.

2. A motorcycle helmet must have durable chin straps attached with solid rivets.

3. To meet federal standards, a motorcycle helmet should weigh at least three pounds.

4. Nothing may protrude over two-tenths of an inch from the helmet’s shell.

California requires motorcyclists and their passengers to wear helmets that meet these federal standards.

WHAT DOES “WEARING A HELMET” ACTUALLY MEAN?

To most of us, it’s clear, but there has actually been some controversy regarding what it means to be “wearing a helmet.”

Under California law, wearing a helmet safely means that the helmet completely covers someone’s head and the chin straps are securely fastened.

The helmet’s fit must be snug and limit excessive movement of the head within the helmet.

California’s climate and scenery make motorcycling a popular recreation in our state. Motorcycles are also economical transportation for commuters.

But these advantages have to be balanced against the statistics. A motorcyclist is sixteen times more likely to die in a traffic crash than an automobile or truck driver.

IF YOU ARE INJURED WHILE MOTORCYCLING, CAN A LAWYER HELP?

If you are injured by a negligent driver while you are riding your motorcycle, get legal help at once. You’ll need an attorney fast.

In southern California, you will need to contact a San Bernardino personal injury attorney.

If you have been injured by negligence in California, your attorney will fight hard to win the maximum available compensation on your behalf.

Your lawyer will investigate the details of your accident, gather evidence, question witnesses, and if necessary consult with insurance experts, accident reconstruction specialists, and healthcare professionals.

HOW CAN WEARING A HELMET ACTUALLY HELP YOUR INJURY CASE?

If you are injured by another driver’s negligence in a motorcycle accident, and you sue to recover compensation, you may be portrayed by the other side in the case as “reckless” or “dangerous” simply because you ride a motorcycle.

If you own a motorcycle in California, you really should ride with a helmet. It’s the law, it’s your best protection against a traumatic brain injury, and it also shows that you are not reckless.

Your attorney will fight to make sure that the person who is responsible for your injuries is held accountable. A good personal injury lawyer will move a motorcycle accident case away from prejudice and toward the facts.

Head injuries, fall injuries, spinal cord injuries, broken bones, severe road rash and burn injuries, and paralysis are just some of the dire consequences that can happen when a negligent motorist crashes a car, bus, or truck into a motorcyclist.

HOW CAN MOTORCYCLISTS REDUCE ACCIDENTS AND INJURIES?

What can a motorcyclist do to reduce the likelihood of accidents and injuries? Most experienced riders adhere to these three safety rules:

1. Be aware at all times of the cars around you. Those drivers have blind spots. It’s best to presume that those motorists can’t see you – unless they indicate otherwise.

2. Do not shoot through an intersection the moment a signal changes. First, take an instant to ensure that the crossing vehicles are at full stops. Negligent drivers run through red lights all the time, so do not presume that other cars will stop for you.

3. When a motorist’s vision is obstructed by parked cars or other objects, a driver may roll slowly – and blindly – into a traffic lane, and that can be disastrous if you are an oncoming motorcyclist. Watching for “blinded” drivers rolling into traffic is imperative.

If you are injured while motorcycling in southern California because someone else was driving negligently, discuss your rights and options immediately with an experienced San Bernardino personal injury attorney.

If you have been injured, most injury attorneys offer a free first consultation, so it costs nothing to learn more about your case and find out where you stand legally.

Take advantage of that opportunity if you’ve been injured while riding a motorcycle in southern California. Nothing is more important than your health and your future.