Oklahoma City Helmet Laws
Oklahoma limits mandatory helmets to motorcycle riders and passengers under the age of 18. Police officers and Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers cannot cite adults 18 and older for failing to wear a motorcycle helmet.
Even though Oklahoma does not have a universal motorcycle helmet law, you will reduce your risk of injury and death by wearing one. You may also improve your chances of securing full injury compensation after a motorcycle accident.
Here is some information about Oklahoma City helmet laws and the benefits of helmets in an accident.
Oklahoma Motorcycle Helmet Laws
Oklahoma once had a universal helmet law. In 1966, the federal government made some highway funding contingent on states passing a universal helmet law. To ensure it received full highway funding, Oklahoma passed a universal helmet law in 1967.
This law only lasted two years. In 1969, Oklahoma limited mandatory helmet use to riders under the age of 21.
In 1975, Oklahoma again instituted a universal helmet law. This same year, the federal government removed the helmet law mandate from the highway funding law. In response, Oklahoma passed its current helmet law in 1976.
Current Oklahoma Helmet Law
Oklahoma’s motor vehicle code applies statewide. The motor vehicle laws in Oklahoma apply to Oklahoma City residents.
In fact, since the rules over public roads and highways fall under the state’s jurisdiction, Oklahoma City probably could not pass stricter helmet laws even if it wanted to do so.
You can find the current Oklahoma helmet law in Title 47 of the Oklahoma Statutes, Section 12-609. Oklahoma’s helmet law states, “No person under eighteen (18) years of age shall operate or ride upon any motorcycle unless such person is properly wearing a crash helmet of a type which complies with standards established by 49 C.F.R., Section 571.218.”
Requirements of the Law
The current law requires all motorcycle operators and passengers under the age of 18 years to wear a helmet. Unlike other states, Oklahoma’s law does not exempt sidecar riders from the helmet requirement.
The rest of the statute applies only to motorcycles ridden on public roads and highways. But the helmet requirement does not include this limitation. Some lawyers interpret this to mean that helmets are always required. Other lawyers interpret the mandate to apply when you use public roads and highways.
The statute requires helmets for riders and passengers under 18 years of age. This means that operators and passengers can cease to use a helmet on their 18th birthday.
Penalties for Violating the Helmet Law
Police officers and highway patrol troopers can issue a citation for helmet law violations. In some states, a helmet law violation is a secondary offense. This means that an officer can only issue a citation for failure to wear a helmet if the officer pulls you over for another offense, like speeding.
In other states, a helmet law violation is a primary offense. This allows an officer to pull you over for not wearing a helmet.
Since Oklahoma does not limit enforcement of its helmet law to secondary offenses, lawyers accept that officers can enforce the helmet law as a primary offense. This means that a police officer could stop any motorcyclist without a helmet to check their age.
If an officer or trooper issues you a citation for failure to wear a helmet, the statute permits a judge to assess a fine and sentence you to jail.
For a first offense, the judge can impose a fine of $5 to $500 and up to ten days in jail. For a second offense, the judge can jail you for up to 20 days. For a third offense, a judge could send you to jail for up to one year.
But most judges do not impose jail time for helmet offenses. Instead, they rely on fines and court costs to enforce compliance with the helmet laws. As a result, you will likely receive a fine of a few hundred dollars if you get cited for failing to wear a helmet.
The Oklahoma Department of Public Safety can also add points to your driving record. Although the DPS does not specify how many points they can add to your record, minor offenses like helmet violations usually result in one point.
Effectiveness of the Helmet Law
The Insurance Information Institute considers age-based helmet laws ineffective. Law enforcement officers cannot tell the age of motorcyclists without stopping them. Most officers will not take the time to pull over motorcyclists without a helmet simply to check their age. This makes age-based helmet laws equivalent to no helmet law at all.
Reasons for Everyone to Wear a Helmet
Helmets reduce your risk of injury and death. Studies in nearby Arkansas and Texas found that motorcycle accident deaths went up 21% after Arkansas repealed its universal helmet law and 31% after Texas did the same.
The total number of injuries from motorcycle accidents also increased. But the number of serious injuries dropped after repeal. Why was this? Because motorcyclists who would have survived with a helmet often died from their injuries instead.
From these studies, researchers have determined that helmets reduce your risk of death in a motorcycle accident by about 40%. Riders without helmets are three times more likely to suffer traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) in a motorcycle accident.
Legal Consequences for Riding Without a Helmet
Helmets can help you maximize your compensation after a motorcycle accident. Oklahoma uses comparative negligence when calculating your damage award after an accident. This means that the fact-finder determines each party’s fault in the accident and allocates damages in proportion to their fault.
For example, if a claims adjuster finds you to be 15% at fault for your injuries, you can only get 85% of your damages. In Oklahoma, anyone who is more than 50% at fault for their injuries will not be able to recover any damages.
Failing to wear a helmet can shift some of the blame for your injuries to you. If you suffered a TBI while riding without a helmet, a juror or claims adjuster could reasonably allocate some of the blame for your TBI to you. Thus, failing to wear a helmet could reduce the damages you receive or bar them altogether.
Contact McGuire Law Firm for a free consultation to discuss your motorcycle accident and how your helmet might affect the compensation you can seek. We’ll explore the facts of your case and help you to find the best next steps.