A Comprehensive Guide to Motorcycle Helmet Laws in Virginia

Smith Law Center
Last Updated:
March 15, 2024
A man complying with motorcycle helmet laws in Virginia.

Your Guide to Motorcycle Helmet Laws in Virginia

Understanding Virginia’s motorcycle helmet laws, their importance, and how they can impact your legal rights is crucial for any rider.

Riding a motorcycle can be exhilarating, but it also comes with inherent risks, especially when it comes to head injuries. In this article, we'll explore the key requirements of motorcycle helmet laws in Virginia, and why they matter for personal and public safety. 

At Smith Law Center, our law firm fosters a special focus on brain injury litigation. Our founder Stephen M. Smith has a unique background in neuroanatomical studies that shapes the way we approach brain injury clients and their needs.

If you’re injured in a motorcycle accident, we’re here to help. If your helmet failed, or you’ve suffered any significant degree of head trauma after a motor vehicle accident, contact us right away at (757) 244-7000 in Virginia to consider your options before any legal deadlines expire. Your right to recover funds after an accident may be on a limited timeline — reach out for a free, confidential consultation as soon as possible.

In the meantime, read on to learn about the key components of the motorcycle helmet laws in Virginia.

Is There a Helmet Law in Virginia?

Yes, there is a helmet law in Virginia related to motorcycles and other motorized vehicles. Here are the details:

Virginia Law

According to Section 46.2-910 of Virginia’s Motor Vehicle Code, every person operating a motorcycle or autocycle is required to wear a protective helmet. They must also have one of the following: a face shield, safety glasses/goggles, or a safety shield on their bike. 

Helmet Certifications

The helmet must meet or exceed the standards and specifications of the Snell Memorial Foundation, the American National Standards Institute, or the U.S. federal Department of Transportation (DOT). The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) supplies certification standards for most European countries.

Certain Exceptions

There are some exceptions to Virginia’s helmet law. Operators and passengers riding on motorcycles with wheels of eight inches or less in diameter — or in three-wheeled motorcycles or autocycles that have nonremovable roofs, windshields, and enclosed bodies — are not required to wear protective helmets. 

Also, the provisions requiring the wearing of protective helmets do not apply to operators of or passengers on motorcycles or autocycles being operated as part of an authorized parade and at speeds of no more than 15 miles per hour.

It’s important to note that it is unlawful to sell or offer for sale, for highway use in Virginia, any protective helmet that fails to meet or exceed any standard as provided in the above provisions of this section. Any violation of this subsection is a Class 4 Misdemeanor and could fall under a product liability lawsuit if you are injured in a crash due to a substandard helmet.

Helmet laws are made to save lives. Even in rare circumstances where helmet use is not mandated, we at Smith Law Center always encourage helmet use while on motorcycles or other open-air vehicles. Helmets can help prevent fatal brain injuries, and significantly lessen the amount of damage you must later recover from after an accident. 

If you need help seeking compensation for medical bills, lost wages, or other costs after a motorcycle crash or brain injury accident, contact Smith Law Center in Virginia at (757) 244-7000 right away. We’re here to help.

Virginia Helmet Law: Motorcycle Riders vs. Bicyclists

In Virginia, the helmet law differs for motorcycle riders and bicyclists. Here's a breakdown of some key distinctions:

  • Motorcycle Riders: Failure to comply with helmet laws in Virginia is considered a Class 4 Misdemeanor. This can result in a fine of up to $250. For a second offense, it goes up to a Class 1 Misdemeanor, which means you could pay a fine of up to $2,500 and or spend up to 12 months in jail.
  • Bicyclists: In Virginia, there is no state law that requires bicyclists to wear a helmet. However, a county, city, or town can pass an ordinance to require children 14 years and younger to wear a helmet. If such an ordinance is in place and violated, the penalty may be a small fine of $25. However, since this law applies to children, repeated violations could escalate to a matter for Virginia’s Child Protective Services (CPS).

While Virginia's helmet law for motorcycle riders is clear and mandatory, bicyclists should still consider wearing helmets as a proactive measure to protect themselves on the road. It's essential for motorcyclists and bicyclists alike to prioritize safety by wearing helmets, even in jurisdictions where it's not legally required. 

Helmets significantly reduce the risk of head injuries and can save lives in the event of an accident.

How Virginia Helmet Laws Help Save Lives

Helmet laws in Virginia and throughout the U.S. save lives primarily by reducing the risk and severity of head injuries in motorcycle accidents. Here's how:

  • Protection from Head Injuries: Helmets provide a protective barrier for the head, reducing the impact force transmitted to the skull and brain in the event of a crash. This protection significantly lowers the risk of traumatic brain injury (TBI), skull fractures, concussions, and other severe head injuries.
  • Prevention of Fatalities: Studies consistently show that wearing a helmet dramatically reduces the likelihood of fatal head injuries in motorcycle accidents. Helmets absorb and distribute impact energy, which can be crucial in preventing fatal blows to the head.
  • Mitigation of Brain Trauma: Even in non-fatal accidents, head injuries can lead to long-term disabilities and impairments. Helmets help mitigate the extent of brain trauma by cushioning the brain against sudden deceleration forces and reducing the likelihood of permanent brain damage.

Helmet laws play a crucial role in promoting safer riding habits and reducing the devastating impact of motorcycle accidents on individuals, families, and communities. By mandating helmet use, jurisdictions can significantly improve the safety outcomes for motorcyclists on the road.

Contact Experienced Motorcycle & Brain Injury Attorneys

Understanding and adhering to helmet laws is paramount for all motorcyclists, not just for legal compliance but for personal safety and well-being. As personal injury lawyers, we've witnessed firsthand the catastrophic consequences of motorcycle accidents, especially when head injuries occur.

Helmet laws, such as those in place in Virginia, serve as a crucial line of defense against the most severe outcomes of motorcycle accidents. By requiring riders and passengers to wear helmets that meet specific safety standards, these laws help reduce the risk of traumatic brain injuries, skull fractures, and other life-altering consequences.

At Smith Law Center, we stand ready to support those who have been injured in motorcycle accidents, regardless of helmet use. Our goal is to advocate for our clients' rights, seek justice, and provide the support they need to recover physically, emotionally, and financially from their injuries.

If you or a loved one is injured in a motorcycle accident, contact us at our Virginia headquarters by calling (757) 244-7000 to discuss what you need to recover.

Proudly Representing Virginia Residents

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