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3 min read

Navigating Motorcycle Helmet Laws

Navigating Motorcycle Helmet Laws

Motorcycle Helmet Laws vary across the United States, with each state enforcing distinct regulations to ensure rider safety. In this concise state-by-state guide, we provide an overview of helmet requirements, ranging from mandatory helmet use for all riders to laws applicable only to minors or specific circumstances. Familiarize yourself with the rules in your area to stay safe and legally compliant while enjoying the open road on your motorcycle.


Motorcycle Helmet Laws: State-by-State Guide

I must admit, when I sat down to write about motorcycle laws I thought this would be fairly easy. I have had the privilege to live in many states and the opportunity to visit many more, but with a closer look at some motorcycle laws state by state (provided by AAA), I realize that I might not have been always legal when riding in different states.

Licensure Requirements

First, we all know that every state has its basic laws, and the first one you must deal with is licensure requirements. For example, I admittedly rode without a license for many years when I lived on the East Coast.

It wasn’t because I wasn’t a capable rider that couldn’t pass the test, but instead, I couldn’t afford a street-legal bike that had all the turn signals nor brakes for that matter. And despite the fact that I started riding two wheels when I was 12, my parents always hated motorcycles, therefore they would have never allowed me to take written or the road test.


Motorcyclist riding out of parking lot onto open road adventure


So, when I moved to Alabama to go to college, the first thing I did was get my class M.

But even getting your class M, differs from state to state.

In Alabama, you only need to pass the written test, but when I moved to California, I would have had to take both a written and a road test if I didn’t already have my class M. In Texas, where I live now, you are required to pass the written test and a state-approved motorcycle safety course, which I think every state should require (it would have saved me a lot of hard lessons learned).

Why am I babbling on about different state requirements? Well, because, unlike cars, we riders have to be aware of not only the laws in our own state, but that of others, especially if you plan to do a road trip that encompasses multiple states.

Helmet Laws

The first and arguably most important is helmet laws. According to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, 19 states and D.C. require all riders to wear helmets and 28 states require helmets only for those under a certain age like Arizona and Texas.  While just 3 states have no helmet laws (Illinois, Iowa, and New Hampshire), New Hampshire requires protective headgear but not a helmet.

Regardless if you are an advocate of the freedom to choose or not, knowing important details such as helmet laws can keep your great American road trip from turning memorable to miserable.

No one wants to take off from Key West with no helmet, no worries, and long locks flowing in the wind, only to cross the Georgia state line and get busted for not wearing a DOT-approved helmet.

Woman motorcyclist in protective helmet - safe and stylish ride


Other Odd Laws

In Alaska, if you want to take in the breathtaking landscape with some of your favorite tunes, then you better have external speakers because helmet speakers are prohibited.

In Maine, you’re out in your 60s in Bonneville with a sidecar cruising the docks. You see a damsel in distress and offer her a ride, she slides into the sidecar. Your feeling happy…

That was until she waves her New England Patriot linebacker-looking boyfriend to come on. You freeze up, shocked by the sheer size of him. Well, he can’t ride in the sidecar with her, because it is illegal for two to be in there, instead, he hopes on the back and wraps his big meat hook contraptions around you, making you uneasy, as you recall past episodes of “The Worst Prisons in America”.

If you would have read the laws beforehand, you might have been able to think quickly enough to tell her to sit behind you, while “Gronk” squeezes into the sidecar. Better yet, you might have been able to just kick dirt, peeling away and leaving the man fridge in the dust.

Knowing the laws will not only save you from a very expensive therapy bill but could save you from a very unfortunate encounter with the fuzz.

Not that law enforcement is bad, but we ride to get away from authority figures (my wife), our work, and all the stress that our lives bottle up. Riding is our therapy and we need to make it stress-free.