California is one of nineteen states with a universal helmet law. That means operators and passengers of any age are required to wear properly tested and approved helmets.
In some states, helmets are optional for riders over twenty-one, or a rider can avoid wearing a helmet if he or she has completed a safety course. But not in California. And while in some states the law is less strict for certain types of vehicles, California’s regulations apply to all similar vehicles—even motorized bicycles.
Are Helmets Effective?
Yes. A better question might be this: Why aren’t you wearing one? The research is clear: Helmets prevent serious head injuries and save lives. They’re not foolproof, but when you get into a crash, a helmet improves your odds. All things being equal, if a biker is in a potentially fatal crash, a helmet will save his or her life about 37 percent of the time. Reducing your chance of death is always a good move.
In its last review of the data, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that helmets save more than 1,600 lives each year and that if 100 percent of motorcyclists wore them, they would save about 700 more.
Do I Have to Wear a Helmet?
The simple answer is yes. California law requires that you wear one.
But what’s the penalty if you don’t? That’s a more difficult question to answer. No one can force you to wear a helmet. As an adult, you make your own decisions. You don’t have to eat your vegetables, for example, or brush your teeth before bed.
But as an adult, you understand that your actions have consequences. If you eat only ice cream, your health will suffer. If you don’t brush your teeth, you can look forward to dental problems.
If you don’t wear a helmet, you should be prepared to be pulled over. The law allows discretion in whether you’ll be cited and how much you’ll be fined. Many bikers receive only warnings, or they ride away with $10 tickets. But discretion can go the other way, and it’s possible for an officer to write a ticket that could run up to $250.
It’s even conceivable that an officer can both fine you and tow your bike (although we can’t point to a case of this happening for a simple helmet violation).
Consequences Under California Comparative Negligence
If survival statistics and ticket risks don’t matter to you, something else should. If you’re injured in a crash and aren’t wearing a helmet, there’s a very good chance that you won’t collect all the damages you should—even if you didn’t cause the crash.
Why? Because under California law, a defendant can argue that the other party was partially responsible for the damage or injury.
If the defendant can prove that you were negligent by not wearing a helmet—which is likely, since helmets are mandated by law—that can reduce the amount you’re entitled to. If the harm includes injuries to your head, brain, or face, it might be even easier to claim those injuries could have been prevented by wearing a helmet.
San Jose Motorcycle Accident Lawyer
These aren’t remote hypotheticals. Motorcyclists are far more likely to be harmed in a crash than other vehicle operators. One study found that bikers have five times the injury risk and twenty-nine times the fatality risk compared to other drivers.
Although about half of crashes with motorcycles involve another vehicle, motorcyclists suffer more. It adds insult (and financial harm) to injury when a biker who wasn’t at fault gets blamed because he or she wasn’t wearing a helmet.
When you’ve been harmed in a motorcycle crash, call on the experienced San Jose motorcycle accident attorneys at Bohn & Fletcher, LLP. All our clients are entitled to a free consultation to discuss their cases, so get in touch at 408-279-4222 or fill out the form below now to schedule yours.