Mandatory Bicycle Helmet Laws: Do They Help?

Many states have bicycle helmet laws, although many of those pertain solely to children under the age of 18. Indiana is not one of those states. 

However, in the wake of an increasing number of bicycle accidents across the country, questions are being raised about whether bicycle helmets should be mandatory for all riders. It’s a controversial topic.

We know that people on bicycles are far more likely to suffer head injuries and traumatic brain injuries than people in cars. Cyclists are inherently more vulnerable than other road users, and the lack of a helmet leaves them without protection – and at greater risk of a serious injury – when they strike their heads on vehicles, pavement, or other objects. However, there are some who argue mandatory bicycle helmet laws only serve to drive down the number of people who choose to bicycle. Others say wearing a helmet makes cyclists more confident, more likely to take risks they wouldn’t otherwise.

From the perspective of a Highland injury lawyer, bicycle helmets are preferred because they can make a cyclist safer. However, bicyclists who were not wearing a helmet do not need to fear difficulty in obtaining compensation for an accident. Unlike the so-called “seat belt defense” applicable in certain car accidents, bicyclists in Indiana aren’t required to wear helmets, so they can’t be held comparatively negligent for a failure to do so.

The seat belt defense, in case you aren’t familiar, holds that motorists and passengers who violate the law by choosing not to wear a seat belt can’t seek damages in excess of the injuries they would have sustained had they complied with the law and worn a seat belt. The same principle doesn’t apply to bicycle accidents in Indiana.

Although individual cities may have their own ordinances, Indiana does not require cyclists to wear a helmet when riding – even in traffic. However, it’s still a good idea. According to the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute, more than 90 percent of bicyclists killed in collisions were not wearing helmets at the time. Other research has linked helmet use to an 85 percent reduction of head injury risk.

Indiana’s bicycle laws are found in Indiana Code Title 9 Article 21, Sections 1 through 14. The law outlines rider responsibilities and rights. For instance, the parents and guardians of a child or protected person may not knowingly authorize a child to break the law. A person riding a bicycle on a roadway has all of the rights and duties applicable to a person in a motor vehicle, except certain special regulations or provisions that by their nature have no application. Also:

  • Bicycles must have a permanent attached seat;
  • No more than one person can be on a bicycle at any one time (unless it is designed and equipped for such use);
  • Cyclists cannot ride more than two abreast in the road, except on paths or roadways specifically intended for bicycles;
  • No one riding a bike can carry any package or bundle that would prevent them from keeping both hands on the handlebars;
  • Sirens and whistles on bikes are forbidden;
  • Bicyclists have to use lamps or reflectors if riding between a half hour before sunset and a half hour before sunrise; and
  • All bikes have to be equipped with brakes.

Any person riding on the road must observe all traffic laws, including stop signs, traffic lights, and yield notifications. If you are injured in a bicycle accident in Highland – regardless of whether you were wearing a helmet – our attorneys can help.

Indiana Injury Attorney Burton A. Padove handles personal injury claims throughout northern Indiana, including Highland, Gary and Hammond. Call Toll Free 877-446-5294.

Additional Resources:

Warning: Bicycle Helmets Could Be Hazardous For Your Health, Feb. 27, 2017, By Peter Ubel, Forbes

More Blog Entries:

Bike Accident Injury Victim Awarded $38M Verdict Against Valet Company, Feb. 2, 2017, Highland Bicycle Accident Lawyer Blog

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