Are motorcycle helmets required in Georgia?
Atlanta motorcycle crash attorneys at Scholle Law explain Georgia helmet laws.
Georgia’s laws regarding motorcycle helmets are considered strict compared to other states. Only 3 states have no laws regarding motorcycle helmet use, and 28 states have partial helmet laws that vary depending on the rider’s age.
Georgia and 18 other states require motorcyclists of all ages
to always wear a helmet.
Who must follow Georgia motorcycle helmet laws?
All operators and passengers on motorcycles must wear a helmet at all times when the motorcycle is being operated in Georgia, unless the passenger is in a vehicle meeting the definition of a motorcycle with an enclosed cab or motorized cart.
Georgia law defines a motorcycle as “every motor vehicle having a saddle for the use of the rider is controlled by handlebars and designed to travel on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground,” including:
- Standard motorcycles
- Touring bikes
- Dual sport bikes
- Off-road bikes
- Minibikes (with engine size 51 CC or greater)
Georgia’s helmet law does NOT apply to motorcycle passengers riding within an enclosed cab or motorized car, mopeds with an engine size not exceeding 50cc, or riders operating 3-wheeled motor-driven vehicles used exclusively for agricultural purposes (such as tractors).
Georgia’s motorcycle laws also require that all motorcycles must have either a windshield or the operator and/or passenger must wear goggles or eye-protective devices that follow the recommendation from the Georgia Commissioner of Public Safety.
Georgia motorcycle helmet statute (O.C.G.A. § 40-6-315)
Section 40-6-315 of Georgia’s traffic code (Requirement of Approved Headgear; Requirement for Windshield or Approved Eye Protection; Exceptions) says:
(a) No person shall operate or ride upon a motorcycle unless he or she is wearing protective headgear which complies with standards established by the commissioner of public safety.
(b) No person shall operate or ride upon a motorcycle if the motorcycle is not equipped with a windshield unless he or she is wearing an eye-protective device of a type approved by the commissioner of public safety.
(c) This Code section shall not apply to persons riding within an enclosed cab or motorized cart. This Code section shall not apply to a person operating a three-wheeled motorcycle used only for agricultural purposes.
(d) The commissioner of public safety is authorized to approve or disapprove protective headgear and eye-protective devices required in this Code section and to issue and enforce regulations establishing standards and specifications for the approval thereof. The commissioner shall publish in print or electronically lists of all protective headgear and eye-protective devices by name and type which have been approved.
Georgia standards for protective headgear and eye protection
The Georgia statute grants the authority to the Georgia Commissioner of Public Safety to approve, publish and enforce standards for protective headgear and eye-protective devices. In other words, all motorcycle helmets must meet the Georgia Commissioner of Public Safety’s approved standards.
The purpose of Georgia DPS Rule 570-13 is to clearly establish the standards for protective headgear required by Georgia law. In it, DPS adopts the standards set forth by the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) in Standard No. 218.
While this standard is detailed and technical, here’s a brief overview of what’s required in a motorcycle helmet in Georgia:
- Labeling. Approved helmets must have an obvious and clearly legible DOT sticker, confirming that the helmet has passed FMVSS standards, as well as the manufacturer’s name, model number, month and year of manufacture, helmet size and instructions for use.
- Padding. DOT approved helmets must have at least 1 inch of thick polystyrene foam. Anything thinner padding less might not provide enough protection in the event of a crash.
- Weight. Helmets that meet DOT standards typically weigh around 3 pounds, whereas non-compliant helmets weigh a pound or less.
- Straps. Helmets must have sturdy chin straps that are directly integrated into the helmet so that they aren’t easily ripped upon impact.
- Design. Visors are allowed, but nothing else should extend from the helmet more than two-tenths of an inch.
Why wearing a motorcycle helmet is important
In Georgia, 154 motorcycle riders lost their lives in 2018. More than a quarter of those killed were between 20- and 29-years-old, and many were not wearing helmets.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the single most effective way for states to save lives when it comes to motorcycle fatalities is a universal helmet law, such as what’s in place in Georgia. Motorcycle helmets saved an estimated 1,859 lives in 2016. Helmets reduce the risk of death by 37 percent, and they reduce the risk of head injury by 69 percent.
The organization Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety reports that there were 10 times as many unhelmeted motorcyclist fatalities in states without universal helmet laws versus in states with universal helmet laws in 2017. An overwhelming majority (more than 82 percent), Americans favor state laws requiring all motorcyclists to wear helmets.
As if these and other statistics showing why wearing a helmet can save your life isn’t convincing enough, consider that there are legal consequences for not complying with Georgia helmet law. Motorcyclists who fail to wear an approved helmet can face a misdemeanor charge with a fine up to $1,000 and up to 1 year in jail. Though jail time isn’t commonly enforced for failure to wear a helmet, community service is.
When to contact a Georgia motorcycle accident lawyer
Motorcycle accident cases are unusually complex. Even if the motorcyclist was wearing a DOT-approved helmet at the time of the crash, negative bias and societal stigma against motorcycle riders may work against them by painting them in a bad light that makes the judge or jury assume the motorcyclist was behaving recklessly. If you were injured in a motorcycle wreck or your loved one was killed due to negligence, it’s important to consult with a skilled motorcycle accident attorney near you who understands your state’s laws.
Scholle Law is an experienced Atlanta personal injury law firm that handles serious motor vehicle accident cases, including motorcycle crashes and collisions. We provide a free initial confidential consultation to accident injury victims.