Motorcycle Helmet Statistics and Laws 2023

It is axiomatic that wearing a helmet is the single most effective way of reducing head injuries and fatal accidents on motorcycles and bicycles. One study shows that wearing a helmet has been shown to decrease the risk of serious injury on a motorcycle by 70% and decrease the risk of a fatality by 40%.

Wearing a bike helmet is the lowest possible hanging fruit to save lives on motorcycles and bicycles. We are making tons of progress, we just need that progress to continue.

Key Motorcycle Accident Statistics and Laws

  • A 2023 bill that would have allowed motorcycle riders to ride without a helmet thankfully failed in a Tennessee House subcommittee.
  • In 2021, there was a record high of 6,084 motorcycle fatalities, marking a 21% increase from 2019. These fatalities represented 14% of all deaths from motor vehicle accidents in 2021, which is nearly three times the number of motorcyclist deaths recorded in 1997.
  • The NHTSA estimated that helmets saved 1,872 motorcyclists’ lives. It also estimated that  749 additional motorcyclists would have survived if all motorcyclists wore helmets.
  • They found that helmets decreased motorcyclist fatalities by 37 percent and passenger fatalities by 41 percent.
  • Despite comprising only 3% of all registered vehicles, motorcycles are involved in a disproportionate number of traffic incidents, representing 14% of all traffic fatalities. Moreover, 18% of all occupant deaths and 4% of all vehicle occupant injuries are linked to motorcycle crashes.
  • In 2017, 65.2 percent of motorcyclists and passengers complied with Department of Transportation helmet standards. In states with mandatory helmet laws, the rate was 87 percent. In other states, it was 43.7 percent.
  • The motorcyclist fatality helmet use rate in 2018 was 89 percent in states with mandatory helmet laws, 41 percent in states that require only some riders, and 26 percent in states with no helmet laws.
  • In 2018, the overall DOT-compliant helmet use rate was 71 percent. The rate was 83 percent in mandatory helmet law states and 56.9 percent in other states. In 2019, the helmet use rates were 70.8 percent, 89.2 percent, and 56.5 percent, respectively.
  • Helmet use rates in 2017 motorcycle fatalities were 62 percent for motorcyclists and 41 percent for passengers. In 2016, it was 61 percent for motorcyclists and 44 percent for passengers.
  • In 2018, the motorcycle fatality helmet use rate was 60 percent for motorcyclists and 51 percent for passengers.
  • Thirty-nine percent of motorcyclists killed nationwide in 2017 wore no helmet. The state-level percentages varied between 0 (DC, NE, VT, and WA) and 76 percent (WY).
  • In 2018, 37 percent of fatally injured motorcyclists were not wearing a helmet.
  • Nineteen states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico required all motorcyclists to wear a helmet. Twenty-eight other states only required certain motorcyclists such as those under 18 to wear a helmet. Three states (IA, IL, and NH) do not require anyone to wear a helmet.
  • The helmet use rate in fatal collisions that took place in the 19 states with universal helmet laws ranged between 62 to 100 percent.
  • The helmet use rate in fatal collisions in the 31 states that do not require everyone to wear a helmet ranged between 24 and 60 percent.