Massachusetts Helmet Laws

Nineteen states, including Massachusetts, impose universal laws requiring helmet use by some or all parties that operate vehicles other than cars and trucks. Helmet laws are meant to increase roadway safety by protecting vulnerable road users from catastrophic head injuries. Breaking Massachusetts’ helmet law could result in a traffic infraction, as well as a potential head or brain injury if you get into an accident.

Helmets saved almost 1,900 lives in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They reduce the risk of head injury by about 70%. Wearing a helmet is not only the smart thing to do as a motorcyclist or bicyclist; it may also be a legal requirement depending on where you live.

Bicycle Helmets Required Ages 16 and Under

Chapter 85, Section 11B(iii) of the Massachusetts General Laws states all bicyclists and bicycle passengers 16 years old and younger must wear approved safety helmets. Helmets must meet the design and safety standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. They must also fit snugly and correctly on the wearer’s head. The only exception is if the bicycle passenger rides in an enclosed trailer or sidecar that will protect the passenger’s head during an accident.

The law also states that violating Massachusetts’ helmet law will not make the bicyclist liable for injuries. It says that another party cannot use a bicyclist’s lack of helmet wearing as evidence of contributory negligence during a civil lawsuit. If a child or teen breaks the law and does not wear a helmet on a bicycle, then gets into a bicycle accident and suffers a head injury, the at-fault driver cannot use the lack of a helmet against the bicyclist to reduce his or her own liability. The bicyclist that should have been wearing a helmet, however, may receive a traffic fine.

Motorcycle Helmets Mandatory

Chapter 90, Section 7 of the law requires every person on a motorcycle to wear protective headgear. The law requires helmets for motorcyclists of all ages and experience levels. Motorcycle operators and their passengers must wear helmets that meet the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT)’s Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 218. These helmets will bear stickers with the DOT seal of approval. Even passengers riding in sidecars must wear DOT-approved helmets.

Motorcyclists also need goggles or face shields if their vehicles do not have windshields. The only exception to the universal helmet law is if the person is over 18 and riding a motorcycle as part of a permitted public parade. It is a $100 fine for motorcyclists who fail to wear standard helmets or who do not make their passengers wear helmets.

Motorized Scooters Require Helmets

Scooters with motors can achieve speeds of 20 miles per hour. They pose dangers to riders similar to motorcycles. Falling off a motorized scooter and striking the head against the pavement could result in a serious or fatal head injury. For this reason, lawmakers make wearing a standard helmet mandatory for every rider and passenger on motorized scooters. The fine for failing to wear a helmet on a motorized scooter in Massachusetts is $25 for a first offense, up to $50 for a second offense and up to $100 for subsequent offenses.

Motorized Bicycles and Mopeds Also Require Helmets

Massachusetts’ stringent helmet laws extend to motorized bicycles and mopeds. It is against state law to operate one of these vehicles or ride as a passenger without wearing a helmet that meets the DOT’s safety standards. Similar to the motorcycle helmet law, it is a $100 fine for violating the helmet requirement while on a motorized bicycle or moped. Wearing a helmet could protect you from legal trouble and serious injuries.

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