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Understanding Bicycle Helmet Laws in California

Bicycle helmets save lives. Unfortunately, many individuals choose not to wear a bicycle helmet when they head out for some riding. This can be deadly. According to the National Safety Council, approximately one-third of all non-fatal bicycle injuries are head injuries. Data also shows that most of the 80,000 bicycle-related head injuries treated in emergency rooms every year are brain injuries. Here, we want to discuss the bicycle helmet laws in California.

California Bicycle Helmet Basics

Up front, the bicycle helmet law for California is fairly straightforward:

  • Any bicyclist 18 years of age or older is not required to wear a helmet when riding.
  • Any bicyclist under the age of 18 is required to wear a bicycle helmet when riding. The fine for not wearing a bicycle helmet when required to do so is $25.

Statistically, bicycle helmets save lives and prevent injuries when they are worn. There really is no denying that fact. However, the debate about whether bicycle helmets should be mandatory will rage within the cycling community anytime you bring up the topic. Many individuals want the freedom to choose whether or not they wear a helmet. In California, bicyclists have the right to choose, so long as they are 18 years of age or older.

For those under the age of 18, the law is fairly clear that they should wear an approved and properly fitted bicycle helmet. This includes individuals operating the bicycle as well as those as a passenger on a bicycle that are under 18. The law applies to those on bike paths, streets, or any other public bicycle trail or path. The law does not apply to bicyclists under the age of 18 on private property.

Choosing the Right Bicycle Helmet

Regardless of whether or not California law requires individuals to wear helmets, we strongly encourage every bicyclist to purchase and use a helmet every time they ride. This should not be a “novelty” helmet. This should be hey helmet that is tested and approved by safety officials.

When we examine the information available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we see that individuals should look for helmets that say “U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) certified.” Some bicycle helmets may also have labels that say they are certified by ASTM, Snell, or ANSI, and these are also acceptable.

When choosing a helmet, individuals should ensure that there is a good fit for their heads. A bicycle helmet should fit snugly all around, with no spaces between the foam and the writer’s head, according to the CDC. In other words, a helmet should not be wobbly. This is particularly important for children, as adults often buy children helmets with the idea that they will “grow into them.” 

The side straps on a helmet should make a “V” shape under and a little bit in front of the rider’s ears, and the chinstrap should be centered under the rider’s chin and fit snugly when strapped into place. Helmets should not obstruct a person’s vision at all when they fit properly.

On the off chance that you are injured on a bicycle, please reach out to our Santa Ana personal injury lawyers to look at your case.