A motorcycle on the open road is a popular depiction of freedom — but in popular media, there is rarely a helmet in sight. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that from 2002 to 2017, more than 25,000 lives across the nation have been saved by wearing motorcycle helmets. However, motorcycle helmet laws differ by state. Missouri law allows most riders to make safety decisions on their own, but that choice is not without risk.
The History of Missouri’s Motorcycle Helmet Laws
Motorcycle helmet laws have a storied history in the United States. Starting around the 70s and 80s, the U.S. began enacting federal highway safety laws covering seatbelts, drunk driving and helmets. In 1967, the federal government required that all states enact universal motorcycle helmet laws to qualify for certain highway safety funds. Since then, the authority on the matter has shifted back to state governments. Most states decided to weaken their regulations over time, often requiring only young and novice riders to wear a helmet.
Missouri took a little longer to change its motorcycle helmet laws. For years, Missouri had a universal helmet law — everyone who operated a motorcycle, as well as their passengers, was required to wear a helmet. However, after decades of campaigns from riders’ rights activists, the universal helmet law was repealed in 2020. The current law requires two conditions for a rider to be legally allowed to ride without a helmet. Riders must be 26 years old or older, with health insurance that can cover a head injury — anyone who is under the age of 26 or without proper health insurance is liable to a fine if they fail to wear a helmet.
It is worth noting that Missouri is a secondary enforcement state for motorcycle helmet laws. This means police officers cannot pull someone over simply because they are not wearing a helmet. A police officer must be motivated by another violation, such as speeding, to ask a motorcyclist for verification of their age, licensing and insurance status.
The Dangers of Riding Without a Helmet
Riding a motorcycle without a helmet this summer may provide a feeling of freedom — however, there is no safety benefit to this choice. Riding without a helmet is always a risky decision. If you crash, there is a high risk of fatality. However, if you survive, it is likely you will have suffered a severe head injury. There is no margin for error when you choose to ride without a helmet — in our experience as personal injury attorneys, there is always a bad injury when a rider crashes without protection.
Though riding without a helmet is legal under motorcycle helmet laws, it is also important to consider the legal repercussions of an accident. If you decide to take your case to trial, the judge and jury will look into your actions leading up to the crash. Using comparative negligence, they will calculate how your actions may have caused the accident and ultimately determine who is at fault. The failure to wear a helmet may quickly come back to bite you in the legal system, as this places you at fault for severe injury.
Motorcyclists must constantly keep their heads on a swivel. Despite any motorcycle helmet laws, riders are never truly safe around unpredictable motor vehicles. In fact, the majority of the cases that the personal injury attorneys at Casey, Devoti & Brockland handle involve a motorist who did not notice a nearby motorcyclist and turned in front of them to cause an accident. We advise that all motorcyclists take safety precautions any time they are on the road. Next time you go for a drive, be sure to:
- Check your mirrors.
- Check your blind spot.
- Signal before every turn.
- Look for hazards like turn signals, slowing cars or traffic jams.
- Wear protective gear like helmets, full coverage garments and gloves.
Contact Our Personal Injury Attorneys
As a motorcycle rider, you may do everything right on the road and still get into a motorcycle accident. You should place your safety above all else, and wearing a helmet is a simple way to protect yourself from harm. Casey, Devoti & Brockland is ready to help you navigate motorcycle helmet laws as your personal injury attorneys for motorcycle accidents. Have a case for us? Contact our team to start your case today.