The history of motorcycle helmet laws in the United States can be characterized as one of change. In 1967, to increase motorcycle helmet use, the federal government required the states to enact helmet use laws in order to qualify for certain federal safety programs and highway construction funds. The federal incentive worked and by the early 1970s, almost all the states had universal motorcycle helmet laws. Michigan was the first state to repeal its law in 1968, beginning a pattern of repeal, reenactment and amendment of motorcycle helmet laws. In 1976, states successfully lobbied Congress to stop the Department of Transportation from assessing financial penalties on states without helmet laws. That was a victory for the industry.
Currently, laws requiring all motorcyclists to wear a helmet are in place in 19 states and the District of Columbia. Laws requiring only some motorcyclists to wear a helmet are in place in 28 states. There is no motorcycle helmet use law in only three states: Illinois, Iowa and New Hampshire. Not one state has a universal bicycle helmet law. Only 21 states and the District of Columbia have statewide bicycle helmet laws, and they apply only to young riders, and that usually includes riders younger than 16. Local ordinances in a few other states require bicycle helmets for some or all riders. Some bicyclists are required by law to wear a helmet in 21 states and the District of Columbia. There is no bicycle helmet use law in 29 states.
Low-power cycle is a generic term used to cover motor-driven cycles, mopeds, scooters and various other two-wheeled cycles excluded from the motorcycle definition. While state laws vary, a cycle with an engine displacement of 50 cubic centimeters or less, brake horsepower of 2 or less, and top speeds of 30 mph or less typically is considered a low-power cycle. Twenty-three states have motorcycle helmet laws that cover all low-power cycles. Twenty-four states and the District of Columbia have laws that cover some low-power cycles.
Source: Claims Journal
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