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Are you and your helmet compliant with the motorcycle helmet laws in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and West Virginia? Find out by familiarizing yourself with the relevant statutes.

Virginia Motorcycle Helmet Laws

Virginia’s motorcycle helmet laws can be found in state statute 46.2-910. They require every person operating or riding as a passenger on a motorcycle or autocycle to wear a helmet and use some type of eye protection, which may include:

  • Face shields
  • Safety goggles
  • Having their motorcycle equipped with safety glass or a windshield

The only exception are riders or passengers on motorcycles with wheel diameters less than eight inches or on three-wheeled motorcycles with enclosed bodies and windshields.

The face shield, safety goggles or windshield must meet or exceed the standards set by either the:

  • Snell Memorial Foundation
  • American National Standards Institute, Inc.
  • Federal Department of Transportation

The statute explicitly states that not wearing a face shield, safety goggles, helmet or failing to use a helmet “shall not constitute negligence per se in any civil proceeding.”

That means if another driver hits you with their car while you’re riding and you’re not wearing the proper safety devices, they can’t use that fact on its own to claim you were the one being negligent.

North Carolina Motorcycle Helmet Laws

North Carolina’s motorcycle helmet laws can be found in state statute 20-140.4. State law requires motorcycle or moped riders and passengers on highways or public vehicular areas to wear safety helmets (secured with a retention strap) that meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 218. The law does not require the helmet be certified as compliant with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 218, just that the helmet be compliant.

You can find more information about North Carolina’s motorcycle helmet regulations on the Safety Helmet Law page of North Carolina’s DMV website.

Like Virginia, North Carolina’s statute also has language indicating failure to follow this requirement “shall not be considered negligence per se or contributory negligence per se in any civil action.”

Contributory negligence is a defense strategy where the insurance company argues the plaintiff is at least partially responsible for their own injuries.

If someone in a car hits you while you’re riding a motorcycle and you suffer a head injury because you weren’t wearing a helmet at the time of the collision, you could be ticketed for not wearing the helmet, but the defendant can’t say you were partially responsible for the accident due to your failure to wear the helmet.

South Carolina Motorcycle Helmet Laws

South Carolina’s motorcycle helmet laws can be found in state statute 56-5-3660. It requires all riders under the age of 21 to wear a helmet approved by the state’s Department of Public Safety (DPS). Helmets must also:

  • Be equipped with a neck or chin strap
  • Be reflectorized on both sides

The law says the department is “authorized to adopt and amend regulations covering the types of helmets and the specifications.” It also grants the DPS authority to “establish and maintain a list of approved helmets which meet the specifications.”

The South Carolina Department of Public Safety website does not have an easy-to-find list of approved helmets. Under their bicycle helmet resources, they recommend parents purchase a Consumer Product Safety Commissions (CPSC) certified or Snell-approved helmet for their kids. Chances are the DPS holds motorcycle helmets to those standards as well.

If you’re a South Carolina rider who is worried your helmet isn’t on the South Carolina DPS’s mystery “list,” don’t hesitate to give them a call.

Section 56-5-3670 of South Carolina’s state statutes also requires goggles or face shields (approved by the DPS) be worn by riders under the age of 21, unless their motorcycle is equipped with a wind screen that meets DPS standards.

Many states utilize the same DOT Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 218 safety standard. If a state’s law is vague about which approved or certified safety standard applies, it’s likely that one.

Georgia Motorcycle Helmet Laws

Georgia’s motorcycle helmet laws can be found in state statute 40-6-315. The state prohibits operating or riding a motorcycle without protective headgear that meets the standards established by the state’s commissioner of public safety (a post currently held by Colonel Gary Vowell).

Georgia also requires eye protection unless a motorcycle is equipped with a windshield.

The requirement does not apply to riders in an enclosed cabin, motorized cart or those using three-wheeled motorcycles for agricultural purposes.

The law grants the commissioner of public safety the ability to approve or disapprove protective headgear and eye protection and set standards for the devices.

West Virginia Motorcycle Helmet Laws

West Virginia’s motorcycle helmet laws can be found in state statute 17C-15-44(a) and (b). The law clearly specifies motorcycle helmets that meet DOT, ANSI or Snell Standards are required for motorcycle riders and passengers. The statute also requires helmets be securely fastened with a neck or chin strap.

Helmets worn by West Virginia riders must meet one of the following safety standards:

  • American National Standards Institute Standard, Z 90.1
  • United States Department of Transportation Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 218
  • Snell Safety Standards for Protective Headgear for Vehicles

The second part of the statute, (b), requires eye gear, goggles or a face shield that complies with ANSI be used when riding, or a DOT and ANSI-compliant windshield. “Safety, shatter-resistant eyeglasses” are also listed as an option, as long as they are compliant with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) for Head, Eye and Respiratory Protection, Z 2.1 standard.

Have You Been Injured in a Motorcycle Accident With or Without a Helmet?

Although helmets are required by law in most states, your failure to wear one during an accident may not prevent you from collecting damages. Whether or not a helmet factors into your case depends on the specific details of your accident and the state’s interpretation of the relevant statutes and precedents.

The personal injury lawyers at the Motorcycle Law Group are all riders with extensive experience in auto accident injury cases and the unique complications inherent in motorcycle accidents. If you’ve been injured, consider requesting a free consultation from our Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and West Virginia lawyers by calling 1-800-321-8968.