Does Texas law require motorcycle riders to wear helmets? Yes and no. It depends on the circumstance.
Say you’re riding on a motorcycle with your spouse – or on a hot date – and neither of you are wearing a helmet. You get pulled over by an officer.
Will you get a citation or not? What about your passenger?
And what could happen if you don’t wear a helmet and get in a motorcycle collision?
Learn more about Texas motorcycle law below to find out:
When do you have to wear a motorcycle helmet in Texas?
You may be required to wear a helmet. However, you may not have to wear one either.
If you are under 21, you must wear a motorcycle helmet. No questions asked. That goes for both drivers and passengers.
If you are 21 or over, and you have not completed an approved motorcycle safety course, or if you have an insurance plan that does not cover motorcycle accidents, the law requires you to wear a helmet.
And here’s another thing: Texas law prevents officers from stopping you just to see if you have completed the required course or have the necessary insurance.
Sounds pretty fair, doesn’t it?
Why wouldn’t you wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle?
Okay, I get it. Motorcycles symbolize strength and independence. Wearing a helmet can make you feel pretty weak and uncool.
The simple fact is this: motorcycle helmets save lives. Despite having about 12 million fewer people than California, we had 16 more motorcycle deaths in 2014 (according to the Governors Highway Safety Association).
So, Texas’ roads aren’t necessarily the safest for motorcycle riders. Safety should always be the number one priority and wearing a helmet is unquestionably safer.
What can happen in a civil suit if you don’t wear a helmet and are in an accident?
Since Texas is a shared fault state, you can have your compensation reduced by a certain amount if you don’t wear a helmet.
That percentage of fault you may be assigned comes from the jury. They get asked a question that simply solicits their opinion on what percentage of fault you deserve for your injuries.
As long as your percentage of fault does not exceed 50% you can still recover damages but – keep in mind – your total compensation will be reduced by your percentage of fault. If you are assigned greater than 50% fault you will be barred from recovery.
What makes a motorcycle helmet effective?
Not all motorcycle helmets that are sold are effective. For example, lightweight helmets may not always offer you the protection you need. Helmets that typically weigh around 3 pounds offer you much better protection.
To find a helmet that will give you the protection you want, look for one that meets Federal safety standards. Look for a helmet that has a safety sticker with the letters “DOT” on the back.
It is even better to purchase one that also meets private certification standards from organizations like Snell or the American National Standards Institute. Again, you’ll see a sticker on the helmet if it has certification from those organizations or others.
The helmet you wear should also:
- Have a one-inch think inner liner. Anything less is unlikely to keep you safe.
- Include a sturdy chinstrap locked in place with rivets. Lock the strap and pull on it to test.
Ultimately, it’s your choice to wear a motorcycle helmet or not. Now, at least you have some more facts to help you make your decision.
Shane V. Mullen is an attorney licensed by the State of Texas for the general practice of law, and the Managing Partner at Mullen & Mullen Law Firm in Dallas, TX. His firm focuses exclusively on personal injury law and has been in business for 40 years (since 1983). Before becoming a lawyer, Shane worked for his father as an accident injury claims investigator.