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Washington Helmet Laws

December 29, 2022

Washington’s well-paved scenic roads run from the heights of piney mountain peaks down to the beautiful pacific coastline, making it a particularly inviting state for motorcyclists. It’s also a desirable destination state for cyclists, with hundreds of miles of bike trails connecting communities across the state.

With people traveling on two wheels around the state, Washington seeks to protect riders through its universal helmet laws for motorcycles, scooters, and mopeds; however, there is no statewide mandatory helmet law for bicycles. Instead, the state encourages cyclists to check with their county and city laws since many localities make riding a bike without a helmet illegal on a local level despite the lack of a sweeping state law.

Washington Helmet Laws

Why Have a Motorcycle Helmet Law in Washington?

The Washington State Legislature seeks to reduce the number of head injuries suffered by motorcycle riders through a helmet law. The law specifies that both driver and passengers on all motorized, 2 or 3-wheeled vehicles, including motorcycles, scooters, and mopeds must wear a helmet that meets the standards of the U.S. Department of Transportation and is in visibly good condition. Also, any vehicle without a windshield requires the driver to wear eye protection such as goggles, face shields, or glasses that meet state regulations, which specify that each lens of the glasses has a convex frontal surface and a diameter of at least two inches.

According to the CDC, helmet laws are the far most effective way to save lives and minimize health care costs related to motorcycle accidents. One study showed that nearly 750 lives could have been saved in a single recent year had every motorcyclist and their passengers been wearing a helmet. Also, the U.S. could have saved $1.5 billion in medical care costs.

As well as the obvious costs in lives, health, and economic expenses associated with wearing a helmet, they also offer other benefits including the following:

  • A helmet provides protection from weather
  • Helmets in bright colors increase a motorcyclist’s visibility to drivers, especially in inclement weather
  • For individuals with long hair, a helmet prevents hair from whipping around the face and compromising vision
  • Helmets help to minimize wind noise which can contribute to hearing damage
  • Finally, consistent helmet use presents a good example to others

Washington Follows the Department of Transportation’s Standards for Motorcycle Helmets

Federal motor vehicle safety standards are in place for motorcycle helmets, and Washington follows those standards. These standards ensure the greatest degree of protection for the head and brain. Any helmet that meets these standards has a DOT sticker on the back so buyers understand that the helmet has passed the following testing standards:

  • Force of impact
  • Resistance to penetration
  • Visual conditioning
  • Strength of the retention system

All DOT-approved helmets weigh about 3 pounds, have a thick inner lining to absorb impact, and include a durable chin strap with sturdy rivets ensuring it stays in place.

Washington’s Complex Bike Helmet Laws

Because the state doesn’t have a single universal helmet law for bike riding, many counties and urban localities put their own local helmet requirements in place. Orting, Washington requires all cyclists under age 17 to wear a helmet. The city of Poulsbo requires anyone under the age of 18 to wear a bike helmet. In King County, including the city of Seattle, all cyclists must wear helmets. The same rule is in place in Pierce County and all military installations in the state. Also, the following cities in Washington require all bike riders to wear a helmet regardless of age:

  • Aberdeen
  • Bainbridge Island
  • Bremerton
  • DuPont
  • Eatonville
  • Fircrest
  • Gig Harbor
  • Kent
  • Lynwood
  • Lakewood
  • Milton
  • Port Angeles
  • Port Orchard
  • Puyallup
  • Renton
  • Spokane
  • Steilacoom
  • Tacoma
  • University Place
  • Vancouver

The penalty for not wearing a bike helmet is usually a monetary fine. Not wearing a helmet may also limit the amount of compensation for damages you receive in the event of an accident since you’d bear a percentage of fault for your injuries. Bike helmets reduce the risk of severe head injuries in an accident by 70%.

Before riding a motorcycle, moped, scooter, or bicycle in Washington, it’s important to protect yourself from injuries and potential fines by carefully adhering to helmet laws.

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