Kentucky Motorcycle Helmet Laws

Motorcycle Accidents | February 5, 2023

If you operate or ride on a motorcycle in Kentucky, you need to know the state’s motorcycle helmet laws to avoid getting into legal trouble. You could face a fine if you are caught riding a motorcycle without a helmet as a mandatory wearer. Regardless of whether your state requires the use of a motorcycle helmet, wearing one is strongly encouraged, as it could save your life in an accident.

Kentucky’s Rules for Motorcycle Riders – Helmets Required for Young and Inexperienced Riders

 Kentucky’s motorcycle helmet laws last changed in 1998. Prior to this, Kentucky had a universal helmet law, which required everyone operating or riding on a motorcycle to wear a helmet. In July 1998, the law was repealed and replaced with a less expansive version. Kentucky’s current motorcycle helmet law is found in the Revised Statutes Section 189.285: “regulations for operating and riding on motorcycles – headgear requirements.”

As of today, only the following people are legally required to wear a motorcycle helmet while operating or riding a motorcycle as a passenger in Kentucky:

  • A person under the age of 21 years who is operating the motorcycle or is a passenger on a motorcycle or riding in a sidecar attachment.
  • A person who is operating a motorcycle using an instruction permit rather than an operator’s license.
  • A person who is operating a motorcycle who has only had a motorcycle operator’s license (or a combination vehicle-motorcycle license) for less than one year.

Kentucky’s motorcycle helmet law focuses on young and inexperienced motorcycle riders, as they are viewed as more likely to get involved in motorcycle accidents than seasoned and veteran motorcycle riders. The law requires the use of protective headgear by these parties in the manner prescribed by the secretary of the Transportation Cabinet. This currently means a helmet that bears the Department of Transportation (DOT) seal and meets the requirements of 49 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 571.218.

What Is an Approved Motorcycle Helmet?

Kentucky subscribes to federal standards when it comes to the manufacture of motorcycle helmets and protective headgear. If you are required to wear a helmet under Kentucky law, you must purchase one that meets the minimum federal requirements. This is a DOT-certified helmet that has been tested on the appropriate performance measures, including free fall, impact and penetration tests. During use, the helmet must be secured so that it does not shift from the appropriate position upon impact.

The Importance of Always Wearing a Motorcycle Helmet

 Whether or not state law in Kentucky requires you to wear a motorcycle helmet, it is important for your safety to never ride without one. Motorcycle helmets are proven to help prevent serious and fatal traumatic brain injuries in motorcycle accidents. It is one of the only crash protection measures available to motorcyclists. 

 According to the National Safety Council, motorcycle helmets saved an estimated 25,000 lives from 2002 to 2017. Thousands more would have been saved had every motorcycle rider and operator worn a helmet. Helmets are estimated to be 37 percent effective in preventing fatal head and brain injuries for motorcycle operators. A helmet also reduces the risk of a nonfatal head injury by 69 percent.

 If you get involved in a motorcycle accident in Louisville and were not wearing a helmet, this could impact your personal injury claim. An insurance company may try to use your failure to wear a helmet against you, such as to argue that you contributed to your brain or facial injury by not wearing one. However, this defense will typically only stand up if you were required to wear a motorcycle helmet by law. To learn more about how helmet use might affect your motorcycle accident claim in Kentucky, contact an attorney at Hendy | Johnson | Vaughn | Emery for a free consultation.

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