A number of LA bicycle accident lawyers will agree that wearing a bicycle helmet is an important component of bicycle safety. California law requires that anyone riding a bike under the age of 18 must wear a bicycle helmet. California Vehicle Code Section 21212 states that any person under 18 shall “wear a properly fitted and fastened bicycle helmet,” which meets the standards of either the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) or the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
While those over 18 are not required under the law to wear a helmet, it is highly recommended because statistics consistently show that bike helmets prevent traumatic brain injuries and fatalities in the event of a crash. Here is what you need to know about bicycle helmet laws in California.
Key Points - Table of Contents
- Do I have To Wear a Helmet on a Bike In California?
- Minors Under the Age of 18
- Why Should You opt to Wear a Helmet?
- How to Make Sure Your Helmet Meets the Legal Standard
- Liability Issues and Helmet-Wearing
- How Much is a Ticket For Not Wearing a Helmet on a Bike in California?
- How To Size Your Helmet
Do I have To Wear a Helmet on a Bike In California?
Adults 18 Years and Older
Under California law, adults (those 18 years or older) are not required to wear a helmet while riding a bicycle. Riding without a helmet is legal, but it is certainly more dangerous. Research has consistently shown that wearing a helmet while riding a bicycle significantly reduces the likelihood of devastating injuries, if you are involved in an accident. Wearing a helmet while biking could reduce the risk of head and brain injury by about 70% and bring down the risk of fatalities by about 34%.
It is well established that bicyclists are in danger of being injured in a collision when they share the road with other vehicles. Helmets can help reduce the risk of head injury in bicycle collisions with motor vehicles by about 74%, according to research conducted by the National Institutes of Health. Bike helmets work to protect the head and neck in the event of a crash. While using a helmet in California may be up to the individual, wearing one may be the best way to prevent a debilitating injury.
Minors Under the Age of 18
It is important to note that there are no federal bike helmet laws. These laws vary state by state. As we noted, in California, those under the age of 18 are required to wear a helmet while biking. Even young children aged 5 or under who ride as bicycle passengers - even if they are in a stroller or trailer - must wear helmets under the law.
The youth helmet law in California applies to those under 18 who ride a bike on a roadway, bikeway, sidewalk or a public path. Minors are allowed under California law to ride a bicycle without a helmet on private property. However, it is strongly recommended that those under 18 are helmeted - whether they are on public or private property.
Why Should You opt to Wear a Helmet?
California's bicycle helmet law requires bicyclists under the age of 18 to wear a helmet. There is no requirement under the law for adults to wear a helmet while riding a bicycle in California. However, it would be in your best interest to choose to wear a helmet. Here are five important reasons why you should opt to wear a bicycle helmet:
Helmets reduce the risk of serious injury or death. Falls from bicycles and collisions with other vehicles have the potential to cause catastrophic injuries or death. Various studies show that wearing a helmet reduces the risk of serious head injuries including traumatic brain injuries as well as injuries to the face.
Helmets absorb some of the power of an impact. This means that you will experience less harm because the insides of the helmet with cushion your head.
Helmets increase your visibility. Helmets tend to make bicyclists more visible on the roadway. A number of bicycle accidents occur because motorists say they "did not see" the bicyclist.
Helmets protect from the weather. They may help keep your head drier or enhance your ability to see by keeping the sun or rain out of your eyes.
Set an example for your children. When you wear a helmet while riding a bike, you set an example for your children by modeling good behavior. When they see you are safe, it sends the right message.
Wearing a helmet helps safeguard your head in the event of a crash or if you fall off your bike. If you are struck by a vehicle, your helmet could very well make the difference between suffering a major head injury or being able to avoid them. Bike helmets are specifically designed to protect your head and brain. When you wear a helmet, you are also more visible to others on the road. In addition, it helps protect you from the weather.
By wearing a bike helmet, you are taking the first, most important help to protect yourself in the event of a crash. It might be a small piece of equipment, but it could make a big difference when it comes to helping you prevent catastrophic or fatal injuries.
If you are struck by a vehicle while riding your bike, the at-fault driver could be held liable for the injuries, damages and losses you suffer. Compensation you receive may include cost of medical expenses, lost income, rehabilitation, pain and suffering and emotional distress.
How to Make Sure Your Helmet Meets the Legal Standard
California Vehicle Code requires that bicycle helmets meet certain standards in terms of how they are constructed and manufactured, as well as how they fit and how safe they are for bicyclists. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) or the ASTM set forth special rules to ensure the safety and quality of bicycle helmets. In addition, bicycle helmets must also comply with Snell or the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards.
Here are the standards each of these bodies specify for bicycle helmets:
- The CPSC requires helmets do not block the bicyclists' vision and don't fall off the head when the rider falls. Helmets must significantly reduce the impact to the rider's head in the event of a collision with a hard surface.
- ASTM standards require that helmets pass tests for impact, the strength and stability of the straps and its attachment to the helmet, and other special tests. ANSI standards are identical to those of ASTM.
- Snell standards are believed to be the most stringent requiring helmets to pass tests for impact management, positional stability, retention system strength and head protection.
When you purchase a helmet, look for stickers denoting these approvals to ensure that you are wearing a helmet that meets the legal standards. Failure to do so could result not only in serious personal injuries, but also a risk of legal liability. Selling a helmet that does not comply with the requirements is illegal under California law.
Liability Issues and Helmet-Wearing
When a bicyclist fails to follow the law and wear a proper bicycle helmet, he or she may be at least partially to blame for any head injuries suffered in the collision. While the defendant may not be able to completely escape liability even when a victim is not wearing a bicycle helmet, the defendant will likely use this as a possible defense.
California is a pure comparative negligence state, which means a plaintiff may still recover damages even if he or she was partially responsible for the accident. The courts will likely reduce the plaintiff's financial award by an amount equal to his or her percentage of the fault. In a case where a bicyclist is not wearing a helmet at the time of the collision, he or she may receive only a portion of the compensation for injuries, which could have been reasonably prevented by wearing a proper helmet.
It is important to remember that a plaintiff must prove the defendant's negligence in a personal injury case. Plaintiffs may also have to defend their own negligence if they fail to wear a bicycle helmet. If you have been injured in a bicycle accident - whether or not you wore a helmet - it would be in your best interest to contact an experienced Los Angeles bicycle accident lawyer who can help protect your rights every step of the way.
How Much is a Ticket For Not Wearing a Helmet on a Bike in California?
The penalty for not following the bike helmet law in California is $25. Since the law only applies to those under 18 (minors), a parent or legal guardian would be responsible for paying the fine. Sometimes, both the parent or guardian and the young rider may be responsible for pausing.
California does give young riders who have been ticketed for not wearing a bicycle helmet access to a program where they can eliminate the citation by coming back to law enforcement with an approved, properly fitted bike helmet and proof of having attended a bicycle safety course. California gives ticketed riders 120 days to complete these two tasks by which they can avoid the fine and citation.
How To Size Your Helmet
Wearing a properly fitted bicycle helmet is crucial to avoiding head injuries. Helmets that are improperly fitted offer much less protection in the event of a crash. Here are a few steps to ensure that you find a helmet that fits your head properly:
Size: Be sure to use a soft measuring tape to determine the circumference of your head. Match this measurement with the helmet's circumference.
Position: Try the helmet on. It should fit snugly on your head about two finger widths above your eyebrows.
Side straps: The side straps should be adjusted so the helmet is sitting snug on your head. Make sure you buckle the strap under your chin so the helmet doesn't slip or fall off.
Testing: Once you have secured the helmet to your head, test it out to make sure it's comfortable and safe. Move it back and forth and from side to side. If it is too loose or too tight, return to step two to make sure it fits perfectly.
It is also important to remember that helmets don't remain in top condition forever. They are made with material that can degrade over time. When you purchase a helmet, make sure you note the expiration date and replace it when it is time for a new one. Also, if you are involved in a crash or damage your helmet, it is important to replace it right away because it could have damage that is not visible to the eye such as cracks or dents.