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An Ultimate Guide to Motorcycle Helmet Laws by State

Is it illegal in the US to ride without a helmet? Well, there is currently no federal law requiring that motorcyclists wear helmets. What that means is that there are dozens of motorcycle helmet laws by state. Between 1967 and 1976, the federal government incentivized states to pass their own motorcycle helmet requirements, but not all states currently have those requirements since federal authority was lifted by Congress.

Person dressed in all black walking down the road with a helmet in hand

Today, every state has its own law. For instance, people over the age of 17 can get away with not wearing a helmet in Maine, but they can't in Tennessee. Motorcycle helmet law ranges so much that if you're planning a road trip or tour, you're going to want to either check every state you'll be driving through ahead of time or generally assume you need a high-quality helmet for the entire trip.

To help bikers figure out whether or not they need a helmet legally, we've compiled this guide to motorcycle laws by state.

States Without Motorcycle Helmet Laws

New Hampshire, Illinois and Iowa are the only states without motorcycle helmet laws. By state law, you are not required to wear a helmet at all while on a motorcycle in New Hampshire, but as soon as you cross over into Vermont, which requires a helmet for all passengers, you'll need to put one on. Iowa at one point had a universal helmet law, but it was repealed in 1976. Illinois also had a universal helmet law, which was repealed in 1970.

States with Motorcycle Helmet Laws That Apply to All Riders

These are states like Georgia, where the motorcycle helmet law is "universal," meaning that it applies to all motorcycle drivers and riders regardless of their age.

  • Alabama
  • California
  • Georgia
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Mississippi
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Oregon
  • Tennessee
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • West Virginia

All of these states have some form of universal helmet law. Crossing into them means that you should have a helmet for you and all of your passengers.

Most of these stricter states are on the coasts, so for those planning a big East Coast or West Coast road trip, stick to wearing a helmet the whole time.

States with Motorcycle Helmet Laws That Apply to Specific Riders

The majority of states have some form of law, but not a universal requirement. Generally, these states are more concerned with young drivers and passengers. In states like South Carolina, the motorcycle helmet law only applies to those 20 years of age or younger, for example.

Riders 25 Years Old and Younger Need Helmets

  • Missouri

Riders 20 Years Old and Younger Need Helmets

  • Arkansas
  • Florida
  • Kentucky
  • Michigan
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Texas
  • Utah

Riders 18 Years Old and Younger Need Helmets

  • Delaware

Riders 17 Years Old and Younger Need Helmets

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Maine
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • New Mexico
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • South Dakota
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

Mopeds and Other Vehicles

For many states, you still are required by law to wear a helmet even if the vehicle is another type, like a moped. The following states still require helmets for mopeds and other types of motorcycle-like vehicles: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.

For other states, like Maine and New York, a helmet is only required if the vehicle meets certain qualifications, can reach certain speeds or has a certain amount of horsepower.

Eye Protection and Other Laws to Know About

  • Alaska: Helmets should have reflectors and should not have helmet speakers.
  • Arizona: Motorcycle operators should have goggles, glasses or a face shield.
  • Connecticut: Motorcycle operators need safety goggles, a helmet shield or a safety shield.
  • Delaware: Those under the age of 19 should also have eye protection.
  • Florida: Motorcycle operators need eye protection approved by the DMV.
  • Georgia: Motorcycle operators need a windshield or eye protection.
  • Hawaii: Motorcycle operators need safety glasses, face shield, a windscreen or goggles.
  • Illinois: Motorcycle operators and their passengers need glasses, goggles or a shield.
  • Indiana: Motorcycle operators and passengers under the age of 18 need eye protection.
  • Kansas: Motorcycle operators need safety glasses, face shield, a windscreen or goggles.
  • Louisiana: Motorcycle operators need a windscreen or protective eye gear.
  • Maryland: Motorcycle operators need a windscreen or protective eye gear. Also, this eye gear still requires an angle of vision of at least 105 degrees.
  • Massachusetts: Motorcycle operators need a windscreen or protective goggles, the only exceptions being for parades.
  • Minnesota: Motorcycle operators need protective eye gear.
  • Nebraska: Helmets must be secured to the passenger's or operator's head with a chin strap.
  • Nevada: Motorcycle operators need safety glasses, face shield, a windscreen or goggles.
  • New Hampshire: Motorcycle operators need safety glasses, face shield, a windscreen or goggles.
  • New Jersey: Helmets must be secured to the passenger's or operator's head with a chin strap.
  • New York: Motorcycle operators need face shield or goggles.
  • Ohio: Motorcycle operators need protective eye gear.
  • Oklahoma: Motorcycle operators need safety glasses, face shield, a windscreen or goggles.
  • Pennsylvania: Motorcycle operators need protective eye gear.
  • Rhode Island: Motorcycle operators need protective eye gear.
  • South Carolina: Motorcycle operators need face shield or goggles.
  • South Dakota: Motorcycle operators need protective eye gear, and they cannot be tinted or shaded.
  • Tennessee: Motorcycle operators need safety glasses, face shield, a windscreen or goggles.
  • Vermont: Motorcycle operators need protective eye gear.
  • Virginia: Motorcycle operators need safety glasses, face shield, a windscreen or goggles.
  • West Virginia: Motorcycle operators need safety glasses, face shield, a windscreen or goggles.
  • Wisconsin: Motorcycle operators need safety glasses, face shield, a windscreen or goggles.

If you have questions about the local helmet laws in Southern states, feel free to connect with our legal team.

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