Motorcycle Helmet Laws in Virginia

motorcyclist holding a helmet

Motorcyclists who do not wear helmets are at risk of serious injury in the event of a collision. Given the inherent dangers that motorcyclists face, many states – including Virginia – have universal motorcycle helmet laws that require all operators and passengers of motorcycles to wear helmets while on the road.  

Familiarizing yourself with the motorcycle laws in Virginia is crucial to avoiding tickets and protecting yourself in case of an accident. 

At Arrington Schelin, we have over 40 years of experience helping Virginia motorcyclists understand the law and their legal rights. We want you to know that if you were injured in a motorcycle crash and were not wearing a helmet at the time, you are not automatically at fault. In fact, you could still be entitled to compensation.

This article will provide straightforward answers to some common questions about motorcycle helmet laws in Virginia. And if you’re ever involved in a collision, contact Arrington Schelin immediately for a free initial consultation with a Virginia motorcycle accident lawyer.

What Is the Virginia Motorcycle Helmet Law?

Under Virginia law, all motorcycle operators and passengers must wear protective helmets while riding, with few exceptions. Additionally, motorcycle operators must wear a face shield, safety glasses, or goggles if their motorcycle is not equipped with safety glass or a windshield. 

However, you do not have to wear a helmet if you are: 

  • Riding on motorcycles with wheels of 8 inches or less in diameter or on three-wheeled motorcycles that have nonremovable roofs, windshields, and enclosed bodies
  • Riding a motorcycle as part of an organized parade or at speeds of 15 mph or less

Do Motorcycle Passengers Have to Wear Helmets?

Yes, passengers must always wear a helmet while riding on a motorcycle in Virginia, except when one of the exceptions listed above applies.

Why Should You Wear a Helmet?

One reason you should wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle in Virginia is that it is the law, and failure to do so is a Class 4 misdemeanor, which carries a fine of up to $250.

Second, and more importantly, you should wear a helmet because it could save your life. Motorcycle accidents can be devastating, mainly because motorcyclists are more exposed than occupants of passenger vehicles in the event of a wreck. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motorcyclist fatalities occur nearly 29 times more frequently than passenger car fatalities per vehicle mile traveled. Crucially, in states without universal helmet laws, 57 percent of motorcyclists killed in traffic crashes were not wearing helmets, compared to only 9 percent in states with universal helmet laws, according to NHTSA.

Furthermore, helmets can reduce motorcycle rider fatalities by 22 to 42 percent and brain injuries by 41 to 69 percent, NHTSA reports. A review of 61 studies found that risk reduction was likely on the high end of those ranges.

Motorcycle Helmet FAQs

In our 40 years of representing clients injured in motorcycle wrecks in Virginia, we have received many questions about the state’s motorcycle helmet laws. Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions (FAQs):

Is it required to wear a helmet in Virginia? 

Yes, motorcycle operators and passengers in Virginia are required to wear helmets, with minimal exceptions.

Can I recover compensation if I wasn’t wearing a helmet in a motorcycle crash? 

Yes, you can still pursue compensation for injuries and losses sustained in a motorcycle accident, even if you were not wearing a helmet when the crash occurred. Under Virginia law, failure to wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle does not constitute negligence in any civil proceeding. That means you are not automatically at fault for an accident simply because you failed to wear your helmet. The reason is that failure to wear a helmet does not cause an accident and therefore has no bearing on the liability of an at-fault party.

Nevertheless, insurers may try to shift the blame to undervalue or deny a claim. Insurance companies often try to argue that a motorcyclist exacerbated the injuries they suffered by choosing not to wear a helmet, and they should therefore be liable for them. That is why it is crucial to hire an experienced motorcycle accident attorney who can fight back if the insurance companies offer you a lowball settlement or no settlement at all. 

How do I pick the right motorcycle helmet? 

NHTSA has helpful tips on choosing the right helmet. First, ensure the helmet meets the standards of the Snell Memorial Foundation, the American National Standards Institute, Inc., or the federal Department of Transportation (DOT), as Virginia law requires. Helmets that meet DOT safety standards will have a DOT symbol on the outside back. Consider choosing a full-face helmet, as studies show it can reduce the risk of facial injuries in a crash. Make sure your helmet is the right shape and size for your head. If you feel uncomfortable pressure points or the helmet moves when you shake your head, it’s probably not the right helmet for you.

When should I replace my helmet? 

The Snell Foundation recommends motorcyclists replace their helmets about every five years if they have experienced normal wear-and-tear. However, you should always replace a helmet after a collision or if it has been damaged. Keep in mind that a worn-out helmet may fit poorly, decreasing its functionality. 

Contact Our Virginia Motorcycle Accident Lawyers for Help with Your Case

If you suffered an injury in a motorcycle accident that wasn’t your fault, regardless of whether you were wearing a helmet at the time, you might be entitled to compensation. At Arrington Schelin, our motorcycle accident lawyers can help you pursue this money in a timely manner. 

Contact our office for a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your legal options.