California Helmet Law: What You Need to Know Before You Ride

Guide to California Helmet Laws

Motorcycle helmet laws
Motorcycle riding offers many benefits, from better gas mileage to flexibility and lower stress. The popularity of motorcycles continues to grow year after year, and the number of licensed motorcycle riders in California sits just above 800,000, the second highest in the country.

With more motorcycles on the road, there is also an unfortunate downside: an increase in motorcycle accidents. For motorcyclists, there is no greater protection than a motorcycle safety helmet. California motorcycle helmet laws are in place to protect riders from serious injury. Consult with a motorcycle accident lawyer to learn more about your legal options. 


Motorcycle Helmet Law in California 

Wear helmets for motorized bicycles and motor driven cycles
Under California Vehicle Code (CVC) section 27803, all riders and passengers are required to wear a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) compliant motorcycle safety helmet while riding a motorcycle, motor-driven cycle, or motorized bicycle. The universal law, which was enacted in 1992, applies to all motorcycle riders and passengers, regardless of their age, experience, or license status. 

The law is designed to protect against serious and fatal head injuries in case of an accident, and to reduce the social and economic costs of motorcycle crashes. Violations are punished with a fine of up to $250 and/or one year of probation. 

While not required by law, it is strongly recommended that riders wear protective gear such as a leather or long sleeve jacket, long pants, boots, full-fingered gloves, eye and ear protection. 


Choosing the Right Motorcycle Helmet

Has chin straps and face shields
When choosing a motorcycle helmet, it is important to understand the various motorcycle standards like DOT, SNELL, ECE, FIM, SHARP, and DOT. In California, it is required that all motorcycle helmets meet the federal standards set by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). 

A compliant helmet must have a manufacturer-applied DOT certification on the back of the helmet, indicating that the helmet conforms to the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 218. Additionally, the helmet must meet the following requirements: 

  • Fits snugly and does not move or rotate on your head when you shake or nod
  • Has no obvious defects, such as cracks, loose padding, or broken straps, and has not been involved in a previous crash
  • Is securely fastened on your head when you ride
  • Has at least a one-inch thick inner liner of polystyrene foam
  • Weighs at least three pounds
  • Has a sturdy chin strap and solid rivets that keeps the helmet secured over the rider’s head

It is a good idea to do your research to find the safest helmet that meets DOT standards, as well as other safety standards. 


Types of Motorcycle Helmets

Type of Helmet Required
Riders in California have the option to choose from three different types of motorcycle helmets: 

1. Full-Face 

A full-face helmet offers the best protection and coverage to the back and sides of the head, face, and eyes. It has a chin bar and a visor that shields the motorcycle rider from the elements. It also reduces the risk of facial injuries and eye damage in an accident. 

2. Three Quarters

Also known as an open-face helmet, a three quarters helmet is similar to a full-face helmet, but without the chin guard and the visor. It covers the top, back, and sides of the head, but leaves the face and eyes exposed. It offers less protection and coverage than a full-face helmet, but more than a half shell helmet.

3. Half Shell 

This style of helmet, also known as a half helmet, only covers the top of the head. While these types of helmets are technically legal, the rider must also wear additional eye protection, such as glasses or goggles. A half shell helmet offers the least protection and coverage of all types of helmets. 


Benefits of a Universal Helmet Law

Motorcycle helmet laws
In a car, a seatbelt is the best form of protection. In a motorcycle, it is a motorcycle helmet. This is why having a universal motorcycle helmet use makes sense. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), helmets saved nearly 2,000 motorcyclists in 2017. 

Many studies show that wearing helmets reduce the risk of death by 37% and the risk of head injury by 69% for motorcycle riders. Wearing a helmet can protect you from injury whether you are riding a few miles from home or on a busy highway.

Helmets also improve your visibility and comfort, as they protect you from wind, noise, dust, and insects. 


What Happens If I’m in a Motorcycle Accident?

Wear helmets to prevent more serious injuries
A motorcycle accident can be traumatizing in many ways. If you or a loved one was in a motorcycle crash with another vehicle, there are some important steps to take to protect your well-being and legal rights.

  1. Call 911: The first thing you should do after a motorcycle accident is to call 911 and report the incident. This will ensure that the officer files a police report. 
  2. Seek immediate medical attention: Even if you think you are not seriously injured, you should seek immediate medical attention after a motorcycle accident. Some injuries may not be apparent right away, but may worsen over time, such as internal bleeding, brain injury, or spinal cord injury.
  3. Gather relevant evidence: Gather as much evidence as you can at the scene of the accident, such as photos, videos, witness statements or contact information, and the other party’s contact and insurance information. 
  4. Notify your insurance company: In California, you are required to report any accident resulting in injury or death to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). You should also notify your insurance company, but do not admit fault or discuss details of the accident. 
  5. Contact a motorcycle accident lawyer: It is in your best interest to consult with an experienced motorcycle accident attorney after an accident. A lawyer can advise you on your legal rights and prevent you from making a mistake that could hurt your claim. 


Speak to a Santa Ana Motorcycle Accident Lawyer 

Motorcycle helmet laws
Orange County’s mild weather and scenic routes make it a popular place for riding motorcycles. If you suffered injuries in a motorcycle accident in Orange County, you may be eligible for compensation. The motorcycle accident lawyers at Riverview Accident Lawyers have years of experience fighting for the rights of injured motorcyclists. Our Santa Ana personal injury law firm has successfully recovered millions of dollars and we maintain a 99% success rate among all personal injury cases. 

Call us today to schedule a free consultation at (657) 655-6045 or by filling out our online contact form