According to the national highway and transportation safety administration (NHTSA), 14% of all traffic accident fatalities are caused by motorcycle accidents.
Given these statistics, it is clear that there are dangers related to motorcycle riding. Safety while driving a motorcycle is not only for the riders but also for the people sharing the road with them.
Some states in the United States have modified their motorcycle helmet laws to allow for exceptions, while others have not. This variation might cause some confusion.
Hence, you may ask, do you have to wear a motorcycle helmet in Washington? Yes, all the passengers and drivers need to wear helmets when riding a motorcycle.
If some general information for a short drive in the state of Washington is all you are looking for, then this much information should be enough.
However, suppose you want a more concrete understanding of the ins and outs of the law regarding wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle. In that case, you are encouraged to finish reading this entire article.
Motorcycle Helmet Laws And Rules In Washington
All states in the United States were originally required to have a universal motorcycle helmet law enforced by local governments.
If a state’s government failed to enforce this law, the state suffered penalties like less highway funds.
In 1976, however, this mandate was removed by congress allowing many states to change their motorcycle helmet laws. These changes allow for exceptions and some even outright remove the law altogether.
The state of Washington, however, unlike a lot of other states, has a different story. The state went back and forth between an age limit over which they allowed for riders to choose to wear a motorcycle helmet.
This age was mostly 17 throughout the years. It was not until 1990 that the Washington state legislature passed RCW 46.37.530. This was implementing a universal motorcycle helmet law for the state of Washington.
There has been some talk about a bill currently being tested for setting an age limit of 21 years. This, however, will not be official until the state decides to pass the bill.
As for the law itself, it is quite self-explanatory. Anyone, regardless of their age, is required to wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle.
This is the case for the person driving the motorcycle and the passenger. This is for all motor vehicles which run on two wheels and use a handlebar.
Closed cabs and three-wheeled vehicles are not part of this category. Keep a lookout though, as this law might be subject to change.
Motorcycle Helmet Requirements In WA
Currently, as it stands, there are specific standards and guidelines set for a motorcycle helmet to be legal.
Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 218 defines these guidelines. Ensure that the helmet you are using or planning to use comes within or is above these standards.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) ensures these guidelines and standards are enforced. They do this by having most major motorcycle helmet manufacturers inspect their helmets by the DOT.
Helmets that pass inspection are considered DOT approved; a sticker shows this. However, there is sadly a chance that you may end up with a helmet that has been given a fake DOT sticker.
If you have experience in the motorcycle helmet market, you might be easily able to spot a fake one. However, I have still added the guidelines just to be safe.
American National Standards Institute (ANSI), otherwise known as Snell, is the institute responsible for setting these standards for most of the states in America.
Your motorcycle helmet must weigh at least 3 pounds. The helmet must have solid rivets and a sturdy, tight chin strap.
It must also have an inner lining of foam at least 1 inch thick. This is to ensure that the helmet is comfortable to wear.
If a person fails to wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle, he/she will be charged with a Class D traffic violation.
Washington is a very strict state when it comes to penalties for traffic violations. Hence, the person caught in this violation is liable for a hefty fine of $250. This is a fine that can be considered a slap on the wrist.
This is also coupled with the fact that a person who commits these violations multiple times is in danger of suspending their license.
Adding to this are the added problems you might face in the unfortunate case that you are caught up in a motorcycle accident while not wearing a helmet.
Due to the comparative negligence system that the state of Washington follows, all parties are assessed for their part in the accident. This system checks whose fault it was to cause the accident and by how much.
This is done by assigning all parties a fault percentage. This percentage also considers how much you may be liable for your injuries.
Based on this percentage, the decision is made regarding how much compensation you should receive.
If your fault percentage is higher than the other parties involved in the accident, then there is a high chance that you may not even receive any compensation at all.
This also applies to damages that you might be eligible for by your insurance company. They too, have the right to appeal to the court to reduce your damages based on how much you were responsible for your injuries.
The Expected Change To The Motorcycle Helmet Regulation In Washington
As mentioned briefly before, the current universal motorcycle helmet law in the state of Washington might be subject to change.
This is because, under the proposed bill from the Washington Senate 5007 (SB 5007) and the companion House Bill 1125 (HB 1125), there is a change to the motorcycle helmet law setting an age limit of 21.
However, this change has been said to be a trial lawyer. The trial period for this was set to be three years, and this trial period was completed in 2019.
The purpose of this trial was to create a report on the effects of this change. Yet I did not see the change take place as a concrete law.
There could be several reasons for this. The two most prominent reasons, however, could be that the report generated based on the trial did not show enough evidence to support the change.
The second reason could be the COVID19 pandemic which might have pushed the decision to be delayed.
Get In Touch With Experienced Motorcycle Attorneys In Washington
Life is full of surprises; some are unfortunate, unwelcome ones. There may be a case where you are involved in a motorcycle accident and are confronted by a legal battle.
For this, you will need experienced attorneys on your side. Here are some of the best personal injury law firms in Washington.
1. Dubin Law Group – Personal Injury Attorneys
Dubin Law Group – Personal Injury Attorneys, are a personal injury law firm with 40 years of experience dealing with traffic-related cases. Motorcycle accidents are no exception. Hence, it is worth giving them a visit.
Phone Number: 206-800-8000
2. Premier Law Group, PLLC
When dealing with accident cases of any kind, you want your lawyers to have experience in this field. The attorneys at the personal injury law firm, Premier Law Group, PLLC, provide you with just that.
Phone Number: 206-880-7518
3. Davis Law Group – Injury Lawyers
Davis Law Group – Injury Lawyers are a firm that places your case on their top priority. Having lawyers who are motorcycle riding enthusiasts themselves, they are the perfect fit for you if you ever need an attorney for a motorcycle accident case.
Phone Number: 206-900-8295
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. Is It Ok To Wear An Open Face Helmet In Washington?
Open-face helmets are allowed in the state of Washington as long as they are DOT-approved. However, remember that if your motorcycle does not have a windshield, you must wear eye protection goggles or glasses.
Q2. How Much Is The Fine For Not Wearing A Motorcycle Helmet In Washington?
There is a severe fine for committing a traffic infraction that is driving without a motorcycle helmet. The value of the fine that the court currently sets is $250.
Q3. When Did Motorcycle Helmet Become Law In Washington?
Washington’s motorcycle helmet law has been quite volatile over the years. However, the current standing universal motorcycle helmet law was set in 1990.
Q4. Should Passengers Wear A Helmet In Washington?
Yes, passengers of all ages riding a motorcycle in Washington are legally required to wear a motorcycle helmet.
Q5. Are Moped Drivers Required To Wear A Helmet In Washington?
Since mopeds come under the category of motorcycle helmets by Washington’s definition, moped drivers must wear helmets while riding.
Although the motorcycle helmet law has been subject to change many times, the currently set law is universal. So, currently, the answer to the question, “Do you have to wear a motorcycle helmet in Washington?” is a yes.
However, despite the possible change, you should still wear a helmet. It does nothing more than providing you with safety and that is never a bad thing.
Helmets have proven through countless studies that wearing them significantly impacts your chances of survival. This is much better of a reason to wear them than any plain old law.