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Maryland Motorcycle Helmet Laws

Motorcycling is a popular mode of transportation and recreation in Maryland, offering riders the freedom of the open road. However, ensuring safety while riding is paramount, and one crucial aspect of motorcycle safety is wearing a helmet.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), there were 6,084 motorcycle fatalities in the United States in 2021. That same data reveals that 40% of all fatally injured motorcycle drivers in the United States were not wearing a helmet at the time of the crash, and 54% of their passengers weren’t either.

In this article, we’ll delve into Maryland’s motorcycle laws, including those pertaining to helmet use, to provide riders with a clear understanding of their legal obligations and the importance of helmet use.

The Basics of Maryland’s Helmet Laws

Maryland’s helmet laws require all motorcycle riders and passengers to wear helmets while on the road.  This applies to all ages and experience levels, as well as passengers of any age.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), helmets must meet the standards set by the U.S. Department of Transportation (Federal Vehicle Safety Standard 218 – FMVSS 218), and be securely fastened under the chin with a strap while riding.

The requirements for helmet use in Maryland are straightforward: if you’re riding a motorcycle or are a passenger on one, you must wear a helmet that complies with DOT standards.

This means the helmet must have a DOT sticker indicating its approval, ensuring it meets the necessary safety standards, according to the NHTSA’s How To Identify Unsafe Motorcycle Helmets brochure. Additionally, the helmet must be securely fastened to your head with the chin strap while riding.

Exceptions to the Helmet Law

While Maryland’s helmet law applies to the majority of motorcycle riders and passengers, there are a few exceptions to be aware of.

The law does not mandate helmet use for riders or passengers who are 21 years of age or older, provided they have held a motorcycle operator’s license for at least two years or have completed a motorcycle safety course approved by the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA).

However, even if you fall into one of these exceptions, wearing a helmet is still strongly recommended for your safety.

Benefits of Wearing a Helmet

Wearing a helmet while riding a motorbike offers numerous benefits, the most significant being protection from injuries in the event of a motorcycle crash.

Helmets are designed to absorb impact and protect the rider’s head from injury, reducing the risk of traumatic brain injuries and fatalities. Additionally, helmets can shield riders from debris, wind, and adverse weather conditions, enhancing overall comfort and safety on the road.

Common injuries resulting from not wearing a helmet include:

  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI): Head injuries can lead to traumatic brain injury, ranging from mild concussions to severe and life-threatening brain damage. These injuries can result in long-term cognitive impairments, memory problems, and even coma.
  • Skull Fractures: Impact to the head without protection can cause fractures to the skull, which can be extremely dangerous and may require surgery to repair.
  • Facial Trauma: In the absence of a helmet, facial injuries such as lacerations, fractures, and soft tissue damage are more likely to occur. These injuries can lead to disfigurement and may require reconstructive surgery.
  • Neck Injuries: Without the protection of a helmet, the neck is more vulnerable to injury in a motorcycle crash. This includes whiplash injuries and cervical spine fractures, which can cause paralysis or permanent disability.
  • Fatalities: Perhaps the most severe consequence of not wearing a helmet is death. Head injuries are a leading cause of motorcycle-related fatalities, and wearing a helmet significantly reduces the risk of death in a crash. There are an average of 73 motorcycle riders and passengers fatalities as well as nearly 1,046 related injuries in our state each year, per the Maryland Department of Transportation.

Penalties for Non-Compliance With Our State’s Helmet Law

Failure to comply with Maryland’s motorcycle helmet laws can result in significant penalties. If you’re caught riding a motorcycle without a helmet or with a helmet that doesn’t meet DOT standards, you may be subject to fines and court fees. Additionally, you could receive points on your driving record, which can lead to increased insurance premiums and potential license suspension.

Other Safety Precautions Maryland Motorcyclists Should Take

While wearing a helmet is essential for motorcycle safety, it’s just one aspect of responsible riding. Motorcyclists should also:

  • Always obey traffic laws and signals.
  • Wear protective gear such as gloves, jackets, and sturdy footwear.
  • Maintain a safe following distance from other vehicles.
  • Be vigilant and aware of their surroundings at all times.
  • Take a motorcycle safety course to improve riding skills and knowledge.

By practicing these safety tips and adhering to Maryland’s helmet laws, motorcyclists can help reduce the risk of accidents and injuries while enjoying the freedom of the open road.

Maryland’s motorcycle helmet laws are in place to protect riders and passengers from the inherent risks of riding a motorcycle.

Wearing a helmet that meets DOT standards is mandatory for most riders and passengers, with few exceptions. Even if you’re not legally required to wear a helmet, doing so significantly enhances your safety and reduces the risk of serious injury in the event of a crash.

Getting Help If a Motorcycle Crash Injured You

If you’ve been involved in a motorcycle-related accident or have addition questions about the laws surrounding motorcycle operation in Maryland, our experienced lawyers at GDH Law are ready to help you find the answers and seek the justice you deserve.

By understanding and adhering to Maryland’s helmet laws, motorcyclists can enjoy the thrill of riding while still prioritizing their safety (and others) on the road.

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