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Must you wear a motorcycle helmet in California?

Helmet laws for motorcyclists are decided by the state governments, not the federal government, so they can differ vastly from one state to the next. They are also subject to change at times; for example, Michigan used to have laws dictating that helmets had to be used, but the state recently dropped that law so that they no longer do. If you live in California or if you plan on riding through, do you need to have a helmet on?

In short, you absolutely do. California law states that all people who ride motorcycles must wear them, and there are no exemptions. Unlike some states, which only require those under 18 to wear them, California has a law making it so that people of all ages have to use them.

If you fail to wear a helmet, you could face fines, though they will not be in excess of $100. However, you will not get points on your record and you will not see any jail time.

On top of that, you are not required to use eye protection, though you can if you desire.

Understanding and following this law is important if you are involved in an accident and you are injured, as a lack of a helmet could be looked at as negligent as well as illegal. The other driver who was involved may bring this point up if you are trying to seek compensation for your injuries.

Motorcycles come with different laws and regulations than other motor vehicles. Make sure that you understand your rights and obligations under these laws, and be sure that you know the legal ramifications of following the laws or failing to comply.

Source: NHTSA, "Summary Chart of Key Provisions of State Motorcycle Safety Laws" Nov. 26, 2014

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