Call for a FREE Evaluation
phone icon 502-222-2222Call
What Are Kentucky Helmet Laws? | The Karl Truman Law Office

What Is the Kentucky Motorcycle Helmet Law?

September 10, 2021

While the dangers of riding a motorcycle are broadly discussed and well-documented, the unfortunate truth is that many accidents and fatalities are avoidable. This starts with safe motorcycle practices, including never drinking and riding, following the rules of the road (especially speed limits), and wearing protective gear – most importantly, a helmet.

Here, we are going to review the current laws around motorcycle helmets in Kentucky, as well as the benefits of wearing a helmet, how to choose the right helmet, and other ways you can stay safe on the road. However, it is also important to note that motorcyclist safety habits are not the only way to avoid motorcycle accidents and fatalities. Too often, other drivers on the road make mistakes – including distracted driving and drunk driving – that put the lives of motorcyclists in danger. 

If you have been involved in a motorcycle accident due to the negligence of another driver on the road, we encourage you to get in touch with a motorcycle accident attorney as soon as possible. 

Understanding Kentucky Motorcycle Helmet Laws

Before 1998, Kentucky had a universal helmet law, meaning everyone operating or riding on a motorcycle was required to wear a helmet at all times. 

In July of 1998, this law was repealed and the requirements were drastically changed. Since then, operators and riders only have to wear a motorcycle helmet if:

  • You are under the age of 21
  • You have a motorcycle instruction permit
  • You have had your motorcycle license for less than a year

While this gives motorcyclists more choice, it, unfortunately, has led to more than a 50% increase in motorcycle fatalities since the repeal of the universal helmet law, according to the NHTSA

Benefits of Wearing a Motorcycle Helmet

There are two primary benefits to wearing a motorcycle helmet. The first, for safety, is well understood. That said, the facts about helmet use are staggering. 

According to the CDC, helmets saved nearly 2,000 lives across the country in 2016 – and could have saved over 800 more if everyone had been wearing a helmet when involved in an accident. All told, wearing a helmet reduces the risk of death by 37% and the risk of head injury by 69%. 

The second reason is your legal case. If you are injured in a motorcycle accident because of another driver’s negligence, you may be able to recover compensation for your damages, including medical bills, property damage, pain and suffering, and more. 

However, if you were not wearing a helmet, especially if legally required to do so, it may be argued that your own negligence contributed to your damages, which could ultimately impact the amount of compensation you are able to recover. 

How to Choose a Safe Motorcycle Helmet

While wearing a helmet is a crucial part of staying safe while riding a motorcycle, the type of helmet you wear is also important. There are three types of helmets: full face, 3/4, and 1/2 helmets. Full-face helmets provide the greatest amount of protection, making them the safest choice. 

You should also be aware of the different safety standards for helmets. The most important for motorcyclists in the U.S. is the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) label, which indicates the helmet meets the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards requirements, known as the FMVSS 218 standard. 

Another standard is the Snell Foundation certification. While not required by law, the Snell testing is more rigorous than the DOT certification. 

Also, you should make sure the helmet fits well and plan on replacing it every five years. Even without enduring an impact, the integrity of helmets can wear down over time, weakening their structure. 

Motorcycle Safety Tips

While wearing a helmet is arguably the most important thing you can do to stay safe on the road, there are other safety practices that can drastically improve your chance of avoiding a serious accident.

  • Wear additional protective gear: Beyond helmets, other pieces of safety gear can save lives or – at the very least – reduce the severity of injuries. This includes sturdy clothing, boots, and gloves. 
  • Ride defensively: Motorcycles have a much smaller profile than passenger vehicles, meaning it is easier for other drivers on the road to not see motorcycles around them. Generally, you should always assume that a driver around you is not aware you are there and act accordingly.
  • Never drink and ride: Operating a vehicle while under the influence is always dangerous – but especially so for motorcycle riders. In 2019, 29% of motorcycle riders killed had a BAC of .08 or higher (compared to 20% for passenger car drivers). 
  • Obey traffic laws: As with riding under the influence, speeding is an avoidable behavior that makes riding a motorcycle far more dangerous than it otherwise would be. In 2019, 33% of motorcyclists involved in fatal crashes were speeding. For passenger vehicles, this is only 19%. 

Contact Our Louisville Motorcycle Accident Attorney Today

With motorcycles, part of what makes them so enjoyable – the fact that they are smaller, lighter, and more open than passenger vehicles – is also what can make them dangerous. But by wearing a helmet, staying alert, and following the rules of the road, you can avoid many of the hazards that come with riding a motorcycle.

For a free case evaluation with an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer at the Karl Truman Law Office, please call our Louisville, Kentucky office today at (502) 222-2222.