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Is it illegal to ride a bike without a helmet in the USA?

Is it really illegal to ride a bike without a helmet in the USA? Well, let me go straight to the point:

Yes, riding a bike without a helmet is illegal in 22 states which include California, New York, and Texas.  It is also enforced for other activities; such as skiing and off-road motorcycling. The consequences of not wearing a helmet may be fines, license suspension, or even worse with imprisonment.

In some states, a parent or guardian can be held liable for damages caused by any unsupervised child who does not wear his protective headgear. You also need to know that there are state-specific laws on the use of helmets for drivers, passengers, skateboarders, and scooters too.

I think e all agree that riding a bike is an everyday activity. And we all agree that getting a helmet is a simple step to help keep you and your family safe when you ride. In the past, you’d only wore a helmet if you felt like it. But today, the legislator decides for you what it thinks is best for you. And, as such, in 22 states across the country, it’s a law to wear a helmet when you ride a bike.

What is the good news about riding a bike with a helmet?

The best thing is that helmets are cheap, widely available, and can be reused for years to come. So why take the risks? Only you can tell, but I can tell you that I would not take that risk. I bought helmets for me and my children without forgetting my wife. We go around for quite a bit to get the kids getting used to doing some sports activities with us before they are too old and they’d go doing their own things. So if you are like me, and like prevention, you’d better get some helmets for you and your families.

Here is the list of states that require you to wear a protective helmet. I would highly advise not to ride a bike without a helmet in the below USA states. Note that the list is subjected to change based on the local legislator.

Motorcycle helmet laws by state


Riders Required To Have Helmets

Alabama All riders
Alaska 17 and younger
Arizona 17 and younger
Arkansas 20 and younger
California All riders
Colorado 17 and younger and passengers 17 and younger
Connecticut 17 and younger
Delaware 18 and younger
District of Columbia All riders
Florida 20 and younger
Georgia All riders
Hawaii 17 and younger
Idaho 17 and younger
Illinois No law
Indiana 17 and younger
Iowa No law
Kansas 17 and younger
Kentucky 20 and younger
Louisiana All riders
Maine 17 and younger
Maryland All riders
Massachusetts All riders
Michigan 20 and younger
Minnesota 17 and younger
Mississippi All riders
Missouri All riders
Montana 17 and younger
Nebraska All riders
Nevada All riders
New Hampshire No law
New Jersey All riders
New Mexico 17 and younger
New York All riders
North Carolina All riders
North Dakota 17 and younger
Ohio 17 and younger
Oklahoma 17 and younger
Oregon All riders
Pennsylvania 20 and younger
Rhode Island 20 and younger
South Carolina 20 and younger
South Dakota 17 and younger
Tennessee All riders
Texas 20 and younger
Utah 17 and younger
Vermont All riders
Virginia All riders
Washington All riders
West Virginia All riders
Wisconsin 17 and younger
Wyoming 17 and younger

How much does a motorcycle helmet cost?

This depends on what you really want. But as a rule of thumb, the cost of a helmet varies based upon style, the different safety standards it is accredited to (e.g., DOT), and whether you want some nice additional features (i.e., Bluetooth speakers).

I would say that a standard DOT-approved new motorcycle helmet would cost about $125. But there are helmets that are much more expensive such as the ones that are Snell-approved and have MIPS energy management. MIPS stands for Multi-Directional Impact Protection System. An MIPS system uses what is known in the industry as a slip plane. The slip plane is mainly designed to manage energy from rotational and angular impacts. In other words, it helps to distribute the energy created during an impact in case of a fall.

You also can add neck protection, which I quite like. If you add all of these features, you’ll probably be ending up with a helmet that costs around $500.

What would you ride a bike without a helmet?

I do not really like to answer this question, but it is a tangible question that needs answering.

I think, not wearing a helmet in most cases is simply a convenient thing. People, when they go to their local shops downtown riding at low speed think that they are safer. However, what they do not realize is that the vast majority of accidents happen near our homes for some strange reason.

I have spoken to some friends too, and I can tell you that they like riding around in a town or city on a bright sunny day. And guess what, they do not like wearing a helmet. The reason is simple, they do not like the thought of spoiling their hair with the helmet, but also leaving their head dripping wet with sweat due to wearing it.

But this is not all, they believe that riding at a slow pace, any impact with be minor. This is a major misconception. I had a friend whose life was saved because of a helmet. In fact, I had a few friends in that situation and they all said that they would not be here today without the helmet. So, yes it is great to have the wind in your hair, and not sweating, but it is not as great as to be still alive after an accident.

So whether you want to go to your local bakery and go on the motorway, please ensure you wear a helmet. Many people will tell you that this is a waste of time and that if you have an accident, you’ll not escape, but that completely false. At 40 mph,  or at 100 mph, go ahead and wear your helmet. This will make you safe, and provide the right attitude to have and to copy by our kids.

Do helmets cause to reduce vision and hearing?

Yes and no. It all depends on the type of helmet you use. Let’s take an analogy for the hearing. When you are in your car, do you really hear the other cars going around you? I can almost guarantee that you don’t and worse, if you put the radio on, then you’ll definitely not hear other vehicles. So why, we as bikers, always seem to use this argument to justify not wearing a protective helmet? This is bizarre.

Now, for the vision thing, do you see all of that is happening around your car? Of course not. So is the same for your helmet and biking. I believe we need to stop arguing these points to justify us not doing something. Our safety is paramount, and glasses, helmets, protective trousers, jackets, etc. all play a big part in saving our lives.

And by the way, how many motorbikers participating in races fall and are saved by their protective equipment? Many and you can see these all the time on TVs. And these guys perform at extreme speeds and hear, see, and sweat for 2 hours on hot circuits. So, if they can do it, we can all do it.


I will make this short. Wear a helmet no matter what others may think of you. Who cares what they think. You have one life, so ensure you take it seriously without taking unnecessary risks.

Alex Anderson
Alex Anderson
Our lead experts-analyst, Alex Anderson, has reviewed hundreds of electronics devices, automotive gadgets, and other products in more than 10 years. He a journalist, software trainer, and sometimes Web designer. Alex writes news stories, columns, and reviews for us and other popular sites and publications.


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