Motorcycles are fun vehicles, but they are also inherently dangerous. A motorcyclist has virtually no protection from external crash forces, and motorcycle safety gear is crucial for preventing catastrophic injuries and death from serious accidents. Arizona’s motorcycle helmet laws exist to keep riders safe, and all riders should know these laws and make good decisions about motorcycle safety and appropriate equipment.
As of now, Arizona only requires helmets for motorcycle operators and passengers under the age of 18. However, the state does require all riders to wear appropriate eye protection, such as a visor, goggles, protective glasses, or a transparent face shield unless the motorcycle has a protective windshield.
The Arizona House of Representatives is currently reviewing House Bill 2246, a revision to the state’s motorcycle helmet law that would require all motorcycle operators and passengers to wear protective helmets regardless of age, but the changed law would allow riders to pay a one-time fee with registration of their motorcycles to nullify the helmet requirement. The new law would not permit police officers from stopping a motorcyclist simply for not wearing a helmet, but if the rider committed a different moving violation or infraction while also not wearing a helmet, the rider could face a $500 fine.
Why Wear a Helmet?
Many motorcyclists believe that wearing a motorcycle helmet should be a personal choice; the government should not have the right to dictate which risks a private citizen may assume in regard to his or her own safety. Opponents to motorcycle helmet laws often claim that mandated helmet use essentially trades one risk for another; the rider may be safer from head injuries, but a helmet naturally limits visibility and may increase the risk of a crash in some situations.
Despite the arguments against motorcycle helmet laws, research shows that motorcycle helmets can and do save lives. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the fatality rate for motorcycle riders per vehicle miles traveled is 28 times higher than the fatality rate for passenger vehicle drivers. The IIHS also reports several other key statistics in regard to helmets and their effectiveness.
- On average, an appropriately-fitted, Department of Transportation (DoT) approved helmet reduces the risk of fatal head injury in a motorcycle accident by up to 37%.
- Appropriately-worn helmets also reduce the risk of serious head injuries by up to 67%.
- More than 5,000 motorcyclists died in 2017 alone. About 38% of these deaths occurred in single-vehicle collisions.
- About 60% of all motorcyclists killed in 2017 were wearing helmets at the time of impact. For people killed while riding as passengers, helmet use was only at about 40%.
- About 89% of all motorcyclists killed in 2017 were helmeted in states with universal helmet laws. Only 31% of those killed in states were helmeted with no helmet laws, and about 42% of those killed while helmeted were in states with helmet laws that only apply to some riders and passengers.
These sobering statistics should remind all motorcyclists and their passengers that wearing a helmet is generally a wise decision regardless of state laws mandating helmet use. Riders should also remember that choosing not to wear a helmet can complicate recovery after an accident. Not only will a rider without a helmet be more likely to suffer serious injuries, but his or her auto insurance policy may require helmet use for coverage to take effect after an accident.
Neglecting to wear a helmet can also lead to a rider absorbing liability for his or her own damages in some cases, further complicating recovery. If you or a loved one recently had a motorcycle accident in Arizona, speaking with a Phoenix motorcycle accident lawyer about your options for recovery is a wise decision.