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.
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?
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 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.
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