Missouri had a universal motorcycle helmet law. Under this law, all motorcycle operators and passengers needed to wear a helmet when the vehicle was in motion on a state highway.
But in 2020, a new law went into effect. Under the revised helmet law, only riders and passengers 25 years old and younger must wear a helmet. Riders and passengers 26 years and older do not need to wear a helmet if they have health insurance.
Here is a quick guide to Missouri’s helmet law and the reasons you should wear a helmet, regardless of your age.
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Missouri and Helmet Laws
In 1967, the U.S. Congress passed a highway funding bill. This bill made part of the funds paid to states for highways contingent on passing a universal motorcycle helmet law.
That same year, Missouri passed a universal helmet law that required all motorcycle operators and passengers to wear a helmet.
That universal helmet law remained in force until 2019. That year, Missouri diluted its helmet law. Under the revised law, which took effect in 2020, only two classes of motorcyclists are required to wear a helmet:
- Motorcyclists 25 years and younger
- Motorcyclists issued an instruction permit, regardless of their age
All other riders have the option to forego a helmet if they have health insurance.
A judge can punish a violation of the helmet law with a fine. For a first offense, the fine cannot exceed $25. But the Missouri DMV cannot add points to your driving record for a helmet law violation.
Enforcement of Missouri’s Helmet Law
Missouri’s legislature took a further step to gut the helmet requirement. Under the revised law, Missouri police officers and highway patrol troopers cannot pull someone over for failing to wear a helmet. This moves Missouri from a primary enforcement state to a secondary enforcement state.
In a primary enforcement state, law enforcement officers can stop motorcyclists without a helmet to check their compliance with the state statute.
For example, if Missouri retained primary enforcement, law enforcement officers could stop motorcyclists to determine their ages, licensing, and insurance status.
But as a secondary enforcement state, Missouri police officers and highway patrol troopers can only issue a citation for a helmet law violation if they stop a motorcyclist for another violation.
Thus, if a motorcyclist gets pulled over for speeding, the officer or trooper can issue a citation for failing to wear a helmet if the motorcyclist is 25 or younger or has an instruction permit.
On the other hand, if the motorcyclist follows all other traffic laws, an officer or trooper cannot stop the motorcyclist simply for failing to wear a helmet.
Effectiveness of Missouri’s Helmet Law
Helmet law experts say that laws like Missouri’s equate to having no law at all. Law enforcement officers cannot determine a motorcyclist’s age, licensing status, or health insurance status by looking at them. Instead, they need to stop them.
Most officers will not take the time to stop motorcyclists simply to check to see if they might have violated a helmet law.
But Missouri does not even allow this simple step. By relegating the helmet law to enforcement only for secondary violations, Missouri has guaranteed that helmet law enforcement will not occur.
Effectiveness of Helmet Use
Even if Missouri’s law does not require you to wear a helmet, you should still consider wearing a helmet. Statistics from Missouri and many other states prove that helmet use prevents deaths and injuries.
In Missouri, the number of motorcycle accident deaths went up 800% during the year after repealing the universal helmet law. This increase matches what has happened in other states after repeal, although Missouri’s increase was much more dramatic.
In Kentucky, the number of motorcycle accident deaths increased 37.5%. In Texas, deaths went up 31%, and in Arkansas, deaths went up 21%.
The number of head and brain injuries went up, as well. In Texas and Arkansas, the number of head injuries nearly doubled after they repealed their helmet laws. But of greater concern, the number of serious head injuries dropped while the number of moderate and mild head injuries increased.
This meant that the motorcyclists who sustained serious head injuries while wearing a helmet became fatalities without a helmet. Only those with minor and moderate injuries survived without a helmet.
Even more troubling is the fact that the cost of treating motorcycle injuries in Texas and Arkansas went up after the helmet repeal. The repeal resulted in more complicated injuries that required more complex treatment.
In Missouri, riding without a helmet will expose you to:
- Increased risk of death
- Increased risk of brain injury
- Increased treatment costs
Even if you have health insurance in compliance with the law, you could suffer from permanent disabilities and ongoing medical expenses for the rest of your life if you get into a motorcycle accident without a helmet.
How Wearing a Helmet Affects Your Motorcycle Injury Claim
Wearing a helmet does not just protect your health. It can also protect your right to claim compensation after a motorcycle accident.
Missouri uses comparative negligence to allocate damages. This means an insurance claims adjuster or jury can reduce your damage award if you played a role in your injuries.
For example, if a jury finds you to be 20% at fault for your injuries, a judge will only award you 80% of your damages.
Wearing a helmet can help you show that you did everything possible to avoid injuries in a motorcycle accident. This reduces the risk that you will have your damages reduced.
Conversely, the at-fault driver will seize on your failure to wear a helmet to prove you played a role in your injuries. You could lose part of the compensation you need to deal with your motorcycle injuries simply for not wearing a helmet.
After a motorcycle accident in Missouri, you could face serious medical bills and a long period of recovery. A motorcycle accident attorney in St. Louis can help you pursue all of the compensation you deserve, especially if you were not at fault for your accident.
To discuss how your helmet use might affect the compensation you can recover for your motorcycle accident, contact the team at Bradley Law Personal Injury Lawyers to schedule a free consultation.
During your consultation, you’ll have a chance to speak with one of our experienced St. Louis injury attorneys, discuss the circumstances of your accident, and determine your next legal steps.