Motorcycle accidents can cause severe and catastrophic injuries, but wearing a helmet can help protect you and even save your life. There is no federal rule requiring helmets, but the majority of the states have established motorcycle helmet laws to protect motorcyclists.
Motorcycle helmet laws vary from state to state. If you are a motorcyclist in Alabama or even just on a road trip passing through, you need to understand how Alabama state law applies if you were in a local motorcycle collision. Contact Norris Injury Lawyers at (800) 477-7510 to learn more about Alabama’s motorcycle laws.
Wear a Helmet: It’s the Law
Alabama law requires anyone who rides a motorcycle to wear a helmet. Although some states only require those under a certain age to wear a helmet, the State of Alabama has a universal helmet law; it applies equally to all people no matter their age and experience.
The Motorcycle Operating Manual for the State of Alabama clearly states, “No person shall operate or ride upon a motorcycle or motor-driven cycle unless wearing approved protective headgear (helmet).” Thus, everyone, including the driver and any passengers, must have a helmet on at all times.
18 of all 50 states have a universal helmet law, which includes all states bordering Alabama except for Florida. Motorcyclists driving in from Florida should therefore be aware that they would need to wear a helmet in Alabama.
States that require helmets for all riders
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Carolina
- West Virginia
States with age-based helmet requirements
- New Mexico
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
States that do not require helmets for riding motorcycles
- New Hampshire
Risks of Riding a Motorcycle
The risks are significantly higher when riding a motorcycle compared with driving a passenger vehicle. Motorcyclists lack the protection of being in an enclosed space – which increases their risk of injury. In addition, they may be less visible to others on the road, especially in the case of swerving or braking.
Considering such risks, it is important to take preventative measures and wear a helmet when on the road.
Helmet Safety Statistics
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, wearing a helmet is the single most effective way to reduce motorcycle accident deaths and injuries as well as the economic costs associated with them. Helmet usage has been shown to reduce fatalities by 22 to 42 percent and brain damage by 41 to 69 percent.
The National Highway Traffic Association (NHTSA) reported that, in 2019, 16 percent of motorcycle fatalities in Alabama were unhelmeted drivers. It is also estimated that the United States could save $10.4 billion if all motorcyclists wore helmets.
Alabama’s Helmet Specifications
The Code of Alabama Section 32-12-41 specifies the type of helmet that must be used. It requires that a helmet meet the following standards:
- The design on the helmet must be specifically designed for motorcycle riders and passengers
- The outside shell of the helmet should be non-shatterable and resistant to impact and penetration
- There must be a durable shock absorbent cradle in the helmet firmly secured and leave a space between the head and the outer shell
- There must be a padding of substantial thickness that will cushion and resist impact where the head is in close proximity to or in contact with the outer shell
- A chin strap must be firmly attached to hold the helmet securely in place at all times when in motion
- A visor is not required but if the helmet has one, it must be flexible or a snap-on type.
It is also important to make sure that the helmet has a valid US Department of Transportation (DOT) label which certifies that it meets the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.
Common Objections Against Helmets
Motorcycle helmet laws are often a controversial topic for motorcyclists. Many riders prefer to ride without the use of helmets. Whether you believe it’s a personal choice or that usage should be regulated by the government, the fact is that wearing a helmet helps ensure the safety of the rider.
The following are some common complaints against helmets.
“Helmets limit my visibility”
Some object to helmets because they believe that helmets limit visibility when driving a motorcycle. Using a DOT-compliant helmet ensures that there is enough visibility as is necessary for the driver. Interestingly, in a survey of 900 motorcycle crashes, where 40 percent of riders wore helmets, no drivers complained that poor visibility due to the helmet prevented them from spotting danger.
“Helmets are uncomfortable”
One of the most common reasons people choose to forgo a helmet is, simply, discomfort. But helmets are an effective way to protect yourself.
The facts show that head injuries are the most common problem after a motorcycle accident. The NHTSA estimates that helmets saved 1,872 motorcyclists in 2017. In addition, they claim that, if all motorcyclists had worn helmets, an additional 749 lives could have been saved. Considering these facts, preservation of life may need to be prioritized over physical comfort.
“I’m only going a short distance anyways and I’ll drive slow”
No matter the speed or distance, a helmet can protect you when accidents happen. The Alabama Motorcycle Operating Manual states that most crashes happen on short trips, sometimes just a few minutes after starting out. Most riders are also going less than 30 mph when a crash occurs. A secure helmet can help reduce the severity of injuries even at these speeds.
History of Helmet Laws
The safety of motorcyclists has been a concern for many years. This first law regarding motorcycle helmets was enacted in 1966 with the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Act. States were not forced to pass this law, but many adopted these regulations. This was partly because there was the incentive of federal money for those who complied.
Nevertheless, some states chose to repeal their decision later on. Then, in 1989, the National Highway Fatality and Injury Reduction Act was created to encourage more states to follow federal motorcycle helmet safety recommendations.
Consequences of Disobeying the Law
Failure to wear a helmet is a traffic offense in Alabama. If you do not wear a helmet while driving a motorcycle in Alabama, you can be fined up to $100 and may also spend 180 days in jail.
Most importantly, if you are in an accident without protective headgear, then you could have a serious injury or lose your life.
Causes of Motorcycle Accidents
Even an experienced motorcyclist can face an unexpected accident. Contributing factors to motorcycle accidents include:
- Impaired driving (drug and alcohol use)
- Inclement weather
- Poor road conditions
- Sudden stops
- Lane changes
Liability for Motorcycle Accidents in Alabama
Despite what the law requires, some still do not wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle. This can cause complications if you get into an accident. Even if you were in a collision due to someone else’s negligence, the fact that you did not have a helmet on at the time can cause you to miss out on compensation.
Alabama is a contributory negligence state. What does this mean? This means that if you are proven to be even 1 percent responsible for the injuries sustained in the accident, you cannot receive any compensation for your injuries.
The defense will, therefore, do what they can to prove that you were at least partially responsible for the injuries you sustained. Not wearing a helmet would give the defense fuel to argue their case.
Most other states are comparative negligence states. This means that if you are partially responsible for your own injuries, you could still receive compensation in proportion to how much you were also at fault. In these areas, it might be easier to receive compensation even if you were not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident.
The specific circumstances and injuries sustained in an accident differ from case to case. Especially for a contributory negligence state like Alabama, hiring an experienced attorney is imperative – you need that assistance to make strong legal arguments to defend your case. Norris Injury Lawyers can give you the legal advice you need to navigate the complicated process.
Contact Norris Injury Lawyers Today
If you were in a motorcycle accident due to the negligence of another driver, contact the attorneys at Norris Injury Lawyers for help. With over 40 years of experience serving different areas in Alabama, we can help you navigate the legal process and answer your questions.
Let our attorneys with a record of successful cases look into your accident and fight to get you the compensation you deserve. We can evaluate your case in a free consultation session. , free of any fee or obligation.
Read more about our No Fee Guarantee® here on our website. Or call (800) 477-7510 to get more information from Norris Injury Lawyers.