Substandard motorcycle helmet can be reason for a ticket

The in basket: I came across an old e-mail from 2011 from the State Patrol warning motorcycle riders that motorcycle helmets have to meet certain standards to protect the rider.

It said to be sure your helmet “is DOT approved.”

“The Department of Transportation sets standards that manufacturers must follow when designing a helmet, it said.  Proof that a helmet meets the standards is “permanently affixed to the outside of the helmet. Beware of DOT stickers – a sticker is not a permanent fixture.” There also will be a permanent label inside the helmet saying who made it, when and out of what material.

“A proper helmet is typically heavier than a novelty helmet due to the one-inch thick inner form lining,” it said. It also will have a thick chin strap that fits well and is riveted to the helmet.

The news release was couched in terms of injuries that might result from having a substandard helmet, but it didn’t say whether you can be cited for riding with one that doesn’t meet requirements.

The out basket: State Trooper Russ Winger said you can be, and can even be pulled over if an officer suspects your helmet doesn’t meet standards.

But as a practical matter, citations of this kind usually result when a motorcyclist is stopped for violating some other traffic law or not wearing a helmet at all.

“If a trooper suspects that a helmet worn by a rider is merely a ‘shell,’ the trooper can (make a) stop and inspect the helmet. Troopers are not going to rely on a ‘DOT STICKER’ on the outer shell as proof that the helmet meets the requirements. Stickers can be removed, painted over etc.

“If a helmet looks very thin and cheaply made, it probably is not conforming to these standards. A citation can certainly be written for violations of the statute,” he said.


5 thoughts on “Substandard motorcycle helmet can be reason for a ticket

  1. RCW 46.37.530 (1)(c)[It is unlawful] For any person to operate or ride upon a motorcycle, motor-driven cycle, or moped on a state highway, county road, or city street unless wearing upon his or her head a motorcycle helmet…

    (3) For purposes of this section, “motorcycle helmet” means a protective covering for the head consisting of a hard outer shell, padding adjacent to and inside the outer shell, and a neck or chin strap type retention system, with the manufacturer’s certification applied in accordance with 49 C.F.R. Sec. 571.218 indicating that the motorcycle helmet meets standards established by the United States department of transportation.

  2. An officer is not allowed to ask you to remove your helmet, any more than asking you to remove your jacket or pants.(Travis, correct me if I am wrong)

    A DOT approved helmet must meet the following standards:

    Please NOTE- that nowhere does it state who the manufacturer must be, or HOW they test these helmets for safety, or IF they are SAFE.
    It only states the minimum qualifications, and the minimum standards “when tested”. Nowhere does it say they MUST be tested.

    Anyone well versed in Standard No 218: Motorcycle Helmets can explain the lack of continuity on this standard, and the RCW.

    So, since they do not have any way to ascertain the safety level of said helmets for motorcycle riding, I recommend…

    Let those who RIDE decide. (over 21 of course)

  3. As regards Sassy’s first point, Trooper Russ Winger says he or she is not correct.
    “I do not agree,” he said. “An officer can request that you remove your helmet for several valid reasons.
    1.To make sure the rider under that helmet is the same one on the drivers license-if they suspect you may not be.
    2.If an officer suspects the helmet is not an approved helmet they can request to inspect the helmet further.
    3.If an officer suspects the rider may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
    “Helmets are not fashion wear, or clothing,” Russ said. “They are required safety equipment in the state of Washington. In addition, they must meet the requirements set forth in state law. As such, any officer can request a rider to take off this safety equipment for the reasons above.”

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