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Do You Have to Wear a Helmet on a Motorcycle in Texas?

Riding a motorcycle provides riders with an incomparable sense of enjoyment, freedom, and adventure when cruising Texas highways and backroads. But critical safety considerations apply when hitting the open road on two wheels. Texas law has extensive, detailed regulations surrounding the use of motorcycle helmets. Understanding the current statutory helmet rules and requirements helps keep both riders and passengers properly protected while lawfully enjoying rides.

The Texas Motorcycle Helmet Law

Yes, wearing a specialized protective motorcycle helmet certified as compliant with rigorous U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) safety standards is required by state law in Texas while operating or riding as a passenger on any motorcycle. However, Texas law also provides for a few exceptions where choice is allowed. Mandatory helmet use is only required for certain adult motorcycle riders over 21 based on meeting additional medical insurance coverage criteria. For younger teenage riders, helmet use remains mandatory at all times. But experts overwhelmingly advise that all riders utilize proper protective gear including helmets for their own health and safety, regardless of minimal state regulations.

Why Wearing Motorcycle Helmets is Absolutely Critical for Safety

It is well established statistically that approved motorcycle helmets represent by far the single most important piece of protective safety gear that riders can wear to dramatically reduce the risks of:

  • Suffering traumatic brain injuries or concussions after high-impact motorcycle collisions at speed
  • Fractures and disfigurement to facial bones and the skull in forceful wrecks
  • Bleeding, swelling, and other head tissue damage inside and outside of the brain
  • Developing severe long-term neurological deficits or disabilities due to closed head injuries
  • Going blind or sustaining permanent vision damage after ejections
  • Experiencing scalp lacerations, bleeding, bruising from unprotected impact
  • Dying at the scene of an accident from overwhelming head trauma
  • Aggravating or complicating any pre-existing medical conditions

Proper motorcycle helmets absorb shock, cushion violent blows, and protect riders when their unprotected head strikes the pavement or collides with hard objects. Riders choosing to forego helmets severely increase their odds of suffering permanent catastrophic disabilities or death resulting from head and brain injuries sustained in motorcycle mishaps occurring even at relatively low speeds.

Overview of Current Texas Motorcycle Helmet Use Laws

Texas initially passed a universal mandatory motorcycle helmet law in 1967 for all riders in the state in response to the growing public health crisis of thousands of riders dying or suffering severe head trauma in accidents that proper helmets could have protected them from. However, after years of extensive lobbying efforts by some rider groups, in 1977 the Texas legislature controversially amended the law to remove the universal helmet requirement and mandate helmets only for a smaller portion of motorcycle operators and passengers based on age criteria.

The amended statute that has been in effect with few changes since states that currently in Texas:

  • Helmet use meeting DOT standards is mandated and required only for motorcycle operators and passengers under the age of 21 at all times.
  • Helmet use is also still mandatory for riders over age 21 if they do not have applicable medical insurance coverage in place for their motorcycle activities, whether through private insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, or other qualifying health plans.
  • Helmet use is optional for adult motorcycle riders over age 21 who do carry the minimum required medical insurance. Many still opt to voluntarily use helmets for personal safety.
  • For riders legally required to use a helmet, the helmet must comply with U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) federal safety standards. Non-compliant novelty helmets are explicitly prohibited as insufficient protection.
  • There are no exemptions from mandatory helmet use for short trips, lower speeds, traveling during daylight, or based on years of riding experience. Passengers are also required to follow the same helmet requirements based on their age.

Penalties Under Texas Law for Violating the Motorcycle Helmet Requirement

Motorcycle operators under 21 caught riding without the legally required DOT-certified helmet secured properly in place face the following penalties and sanctions under the state Transportation Code:

  • Fines up to $200 for first-time citations for failure to wear a helmet.
  • Escalating fines up to $500 for repeat violations if additional citations are received.
  • Various added-on court fees that substantially increase the total citation costs owed.
  • Points assessed against the rider’s driver’s license through the Department of Public Safety’s point system.

Any motorcycle passengers violating the helmet requirement when mandated also face fines of approximately $200 for non-compliance. Beyond the monetary civil penalties imposed, disregarding the legal requirement of using proper protective helmets greatly endangers riders to suffering catastrophic and even fatal injuries in the event of an accident.

Should You Always Opt to Use a Helmet When Riding?

While adult motorcycle riders over the age of 21 in the state now have the legal option of voluntarily going helmet-free, state agencies, safety experts, motorcycle accident attorneys Texas, and the vast majority of veteran riders still overwhelmingly recommend wearing a properly fitting DOT-approved helmet any time you get on your motorcycle. The dangers are just too great. Regardless of skill level, trip distance, riding experience, or weather conditions, unexpected road hazards, dangerous drivers, debris, and livestock can appear without warning even on familiar roads. Many seasoned professionals and enthusiasts choose to always suit up with helmets to avoid preventable tragedies.

Besides, wearing helmets provides:

  • Essential protection for passengers who have no choice or ability to mitigate risks
  • Critical shielding for operators from road debris that could strike unprotected heads at speed
  • Face protection against bugs, pebbles, and other objects that may cause distraction

Wearing additional protective gear such as leather jackets, padded gloves, over-the-ankle boots with traction, and shatter-resistant eye protection also enhances motorcycle safety for both riders and passengers. But DOT-certified helmets remain the single most vital piece of lifesaving equipment to wear on the bike. Be sure to check any helmet regularly for sound structural integrity and fit. Replace immediately following any collision impact.

For experienced legal guidance related to injuries sustained in any motorcycle accident, contact an accomplished motorcycle accident lawyer Texas at Karns & Karns Personal Injury and Accident Attorneys for a free, no-obligation case review and consultation. Ride as safely as possible and watch out for hazards.