Texas Motorcycle Helmet Laws Explained
While most motorcycle riders know that wearing a helmet is good, you might be wondering if it is necessary. Some states require all motorcycle riders and passengers to wear a helmet while they ride a motorcycle, some require only those under 21 to wear helmets, and still others have more- or less-forgiving requirements. What is the law in Texas, and what changes will this law be undergoing in the future?
In most situations, it is your decision whether or not to wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle. This is conditional upon your obtaining the requisite motorcycle insurance and completing a state-mandated safety course. You must be over the age of 21 in order to satisfy these requirements. If you are not, you will have to wear a helmet. The same rules apply to passengers. As of current law, you cannot be pulled over simply for not wearing a helmet, but those laws are subject to change based on proposed legislation. You will want to speak with a Texas motorcycle lawyer about any questions you may have rather than making assumptions and landing yourself in hot water.
At The Queenan Law Firm, P.C., we stay on top of what is going on in Texas law so that our clients don’t have to. Our Dallas motorcycle accident lawyers can help you with any questions you might have about developments in motorcycle helmet law in Texas. For more information about the current law or questions about representation, call us for a free consultation. We can be reached at (817) 476-1797.
Do You Need to Wear a Helmet on a Motorcycle in Texas?
Speaking as injury attorneys, we always urge everyone to wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle – or even a bicycle. Traumatic brain injury is one of the most serious injuries you can sustain, and since your head is completely exposed without a helmet, these injuries are quite common in motorcycle crashes and bicycle accidents. Especially if you are hit while riding a motorcycle at highway speeds, you could suffer traumatic head injuries and potential death if you are not wearing a helmet.
With all of that said, the decision to wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle is your personal choice in most instances. However, the law in Texas requires all riders under 21 to wear a helmet. This means that minors and young adults who operate a motorcycle must wear an approved helmet – no exceptions.
If you are 21 or over, you must generally wear a helmet, but you can get permission not to wear a helmet. Texas motorcycle helmet laws have an exception that states that you can ride without a helmet if you meet both of the following criteria:
- You complete a motorcycle safety course
- You carry health insurance that will cover your motorcycle accident injuries
In many cases, this insurance is not high enough to actually cover your full needs after an auto accident, and you should speak with an attorney if you or a family member is injured in a motorcycle accident. However, you must carry this motorcycle health insurance if you want to ride your motorcycle without a helmet, even if you will need additional coverage after an injury.
Texas Motorcycle Helmet Laws for Passengers
Since 2015, a motorcycle must be equipped with a permanent passenger seat, footrests, and handholds in order to lawfully carry a passenger. Any passenger under the age of 21 must wear a helmet at all times. Passengers who are over 21 may ride without a helmet provided that the driver has met the proper requirements outlined above (i.e., completion of safety course and sufficient health insurance coverage). The passenger does not need to pass the course or carry insurance. However, if the motorcycle operator has not met the requirements, a helmetless passenger may also be cited in addition to the driver for the violation. Citations may lead to points against the motorcyclists’ license. If the driver obtains enough points against their license, they are subject to suspension or revocation of their license under Texas law.
Texas law is the same for all motorcycle passengers regardless of the location on the vehicle at which they sit. Passengers riding in combinations, outfits, rigs, or other variations of side car extension are all the same in the eyes of the State of Texas.
Will You Be Pulled Over for Riding Without a Helmet?
Some riders are allowed to ride without a helmet in Texas. Therefore, police cannot pull you over just for riding without a helmet. Helmetless riding cannot be the “primary offense” for which a cop pulls you over. However, if they notice reckless driving, speeding, or another ticketable offense, they can pull you over and give you a citation for riding without a helmet in addition to the other offense.
If you were pulled over while riding your motorcycle without a helmet and the officer who conducted the stop failed to provide a reason for the stop other than the fact that you weren’t wearing a helmet, you may have been the victim of an unlawful stop. If the officer assessed any citations or fines or made an arrest as a result of an unlawful stop, you would likely have grounds to contest any of the charges against you in a Texas court. Contact one of our Texas motorcycle attorneys if you are interested in hearing more about what we can do to fight a charge or citation stemming from an illegal stop.
The above information about when a police officer may stop a motorcyclist is only true according to current law on helmetless riding. Keep reading below to find out more information about proposed changes to the current law that would give officers the ability to conduct stops of helmetless riders.
Proposed Changes to Texas Motorcycle Helmet Laws in 2021
The helmet law as it stands today is already the product of various changes. Before 2009, the Texas motorcycle helmet law required riders to carry medical insurance with at least $10,000 of coverage before they could ride without a helmet. This ended in 2009 when Gov. Rick Perry removed that minimum threshold. While your medical insurance still needs to meet the statutory requirements for motorcycle health coverage, a $10,000 coverage minimum is no longer a part of that. If you aren’t sure what your health insurance covers regarding motorcycle accident injuries, speak to a qualified Fort Worth motorcycle attorney today.
Texas House Bill 748
The motorcycle helmet laws in Texas may undergo other proposed changes this year. Texas legislators reintroduced House Bill 748. The bill would make wearing a helmet a primary offense that police can pull you over for. This means that if you are caught riding a motorcycle without a helmet, police could pull you over even if you do not commit any other offenses. This would help close a “loophole,” according to many critics of the current motorcycle law.
It is yet to be seen how this law will change in the future since this proposed law is still going through the legislative process and has not been passed into law. The bill has been kicked around the legislative body since early 2019, and has its share of opponents.
Arguments Against Texas House Bill 748
Arguments against the bill suggest that increasing the capability of law enforcement officers to pull motorcyclists over constitutes government overreach. At a time when police conduct is at such a heighted level of scrutiny, many rightly wonder whether putting officers in the position where they are required to stop a motorist just to ensure compliance isn’t asking for dangerous complications.
Others further suggest that the bill represents a half-measure. Asking police officers to engage in more traffic stops where the motorcyclist may be operating fully within the law could be no more than an inconvenience to both parties. Instead, many suggest, the government should pass legislation that simply makes helmetless driving illegal. This measure would remove any blurred lines from the officer’s determination and make motorcyclists in Texas safer.
The opponents of the bill are of two minds. Some feel that the bill creates too much legislation, and others feel that it fails to create enough legislation. With that in mind, it is hard to estimate whether the substance of the bill will come to fruition in the near future. To hear more about current developments with proposed legislation, we recommend that you speak to one of our Houston personal injury attorneys.
Does Wearing a Helmet Affect a Motorcycle Accident Lawsuit?
In cases of serious brain injury or head injury after a motorcycle accident, people may blame the rider for not wearing a helmet. If you sue the other driver for injuries after a motorcycle accident, they may argue that your lack of a helmet made the injuries worse and that they should not be responsible for that harm. However, this argument does not always work, and you can still sue for compensation.
Victim-blaming accusations are not always good legal arguments. First and foremost, if someone causes an accident by driving dangerously, they are responsible for all of the effects of that crash, even if the victim is especially vulnerable to injury. In other words, pre-existing conditions that are exacerbated as a result of the crash are still the responsibility of the party that caused the accident. Because the accident and subsequent injuries would not have occurred at all without the defendant’s negligence, these arguments can often be overcome.
Additionally, if the court does consider your lack of a helmet your own fault, that does not bar you from recovering compensation. In Texas, courts and juries can assign partial blame to any, both, or all parties involved in the accident. If the court finds that the other driver was at fault for your crash, but you contributed to the crash, your damages will be reduced by your percentage of fault in the crash. For example, if your lack of a helmet is considered 5% fault in causing the accident, you will still recover 95% of the damages. As long as you were 50% at fault or less, you can still recover damages for a motorcycle crash without a helmet.
Our Dallas Motorcycle Accident Lawyers Can Help if you Got into a Wreck
If you or a loved one suffered motorcycle accident injuries in Texas, do not let the Texas motorcycle helmet laws discourage you from talking to a personal injury lawyer or taking the responsible parties to court. Our personal injury lawyers may be able to file your claim in court and work to get you and your family the compensation you need for serious motorcycle accident injuries. To schedule a free legal consultation, call our law offices today at (817) 476-1797.