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Motorcycle helmet laws, part 1: California in context

One of the threads in this blog is motorcycle accidents. And so this week, we will devote a two-part post to the issue of motorcycle helmet laws.

Such laws are controversial within the motorcycle community. Many motorcyclists believe that bulky helmets negatively affect their vision and hearing while operating their cycle.

Many safety advocates, however, believe that helmet laws help to save lives when motorcycle crashes occur.

In this part of the post, we will provide an overview of helmet laws in California and across the country.

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), 47 states have some form of helmet law. Of these states, though, only 19 make helmets mandatory for all motorcycle riders.

In 28 states, helmets are mandatory for only certain categories of riders. And three states do not have helmet laws.

California, of course, has had its mandatory motorcycle helmet law for over two decades now. Its universal helmet law became operative in 1992.

The state also has a mandatory helmet law that applies to bicyclists under the age of 18. California is one of 21 states with such a law.

Helmet laws of any type, it should be pointed out, do not exist in a vacuum. After all, in the case of motorcycle accidents, the issue often involves the inability or unwillingness of other motorists to share the road with motorcyclists.

In other words, there is much more to motorcycle safety than wearing (or not wearing) a helmet.

In part two of this post, we will take note of federal safety data regarding the effect of California's motorcycle helmet law.

Source: Governors Highway Safety Association, "Helmet Laws," January 2014

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