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Motorcycle Helmet Laws in Illinois

Posted on August 4, 2022

Many states around the country have laws implemented regarding helmet use for motorcyclists. Illinois is not one of them. Here, we want to discuss what the law says about helmet use for motorcyclists in Illinois, as well as the reason why all riders are encouraged to wear helmets at all times when their bike is in motion.

What Does Illinois Law Require?

Most states have some type of motorcycle helmet laws in place, but you will not find any reference to motorcycle helmets in Illinois law. Motorcyclists are not required to wear helmets in this state.

What is somewhat surprising is that this state does not have a motorcycle law surrounding minors who operate motorcycles. Even in states that do not have a universal motorcycle helmet law for everyone typically have requirements in place for riders under the age of 21 or 18. Again, Illinois does not have any laws in place regarding helmet use for riders, regardless of age.

Why Motorcycle Helmets Are Important

Even though motorcycle helmets are not required in Illinois, the state DOT does recommend that all riders wear helmets in order to remain safe on the roadway. Research has proven time and time again that helmets significantly reduce the chance of injury or death in the event an accident occurs.

According to information available from the National Safety Council (NSC), motorcycle helmets are 37% effective in preventing fatal injuries to motorcycle drivers and 41% effective in preventing fatal injuries for motorcycle passengers. Helmets are found to be 69% effective at reducing the risk of serious head injury for motorcyclists.

Information available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that helmets saved more than 1,800 lives across the country during a recent reporting year, but they also say that nearly 800 more lives could have been saved if every motorcyclist had worn a helmet. Overall, our economy could save $1.5 billion if every motorcyclist wore helmets.

What is a DOT-Approved Motorcycle Helmet

It can be confusing to understand the exact type of helmet you need if you want to safely operate a motorcycle in Illinois. Even though the state of Illinois does not have motorcycle helmet laws in place, we again strongly encourage all motorcyclists to use proper head protection.

In states that do have motorcycle helmet laws, DOT-approved helmets must be used. If a person wants to be sure that their helmet meets the proper requirements, they should look for a DOT symbol on the back of the helmet, which indicates that it meets the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 218. This standard means that a helmet has the following:

Thick inner liner

Helmets that meet the proper standards will have an inner liner that is approximately one inch thick of polystyrene foam. Sometimes, the inner liner will not be visible, and you will have to feel through the helmet material to ascertain the thickness.

Sturdy chin straps and rivets

Chin straps of these approved helmets must be sturdy and have solid rivets holding them in place.

Proper weight

Unsafe motorcycle helmets typically weigh only one pound or less. Helmets that meet the approved standards usually weigh approximately three pounds.

Certain design and style

DOT-approved safety standard does not allow anything to extend further than two-tenths of an inch away from the surface of the helmet. For example, you may see certain fasteners on the helmets that are allowed, but a spike or other type of protruding decoration would be considered unsafe. Additionally, a German army style or skullcap style it’s generally going to be an unsafe helmet. Unsafe helmets are smaller in diameter and have a thinner design.

Proper labeling

There are various types of labeling that should be present on a DOT-approved helmet, including a DOT sticker. Additionally, there are a few nonprofits, such as Snell and American National Standards Institute (ANSI), that may also have stickers on the inside of the helmet to indicate that they are approved. Finally, manufacturers of the helmet are required to put various information on the inside of the helmet on a label, including the manufacturer’s name, along with the model and size number of the helmet. Additionally, there will be a month and year indicating when the helmet was manufactured period.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) does not approve helmets or any other safety equipment for vehicles, but they rely on a self-certification process. However, the NHTSA does conduct tests on some helmets to ensure that they meet their standards. Selection of the helmets to test is random, but they do take into consideration consumer feedback and complaints when terminating which helmets to test. If a helmet does not meet NHTSA standards after testing, the agency could issue a formal recall of the helmet, requiring it be removed from retailers.

Where Can You Purchase a Motorcycle Helmet?

There are plenty of retailers who offer helmets that are supposedly for motorcyclists but are, in reality, not to be used for safety purposes.

If you are looking to purchase a DOT-approved motorcycle helmet, please go to a trusted brick-and-mortar motorcycle retail store or use a reputable online retailer. However, we caution you when using an online retailer because there are many sellers who use fake labeling.

Will Not Wearing a Helmet Affect Compensation Recovery?

Individuals often wonder whether or not the failure to wear a helmet can affect a personal injury claim if they are struck by another driver while riding a motorcycle. In some states, particularly where there are laws requiring motorcycle helmet usage, individuals may be held partially responsible for causing their own injuries under a few circumstances. For example, if a person fails to wear a helmet and the state requires them to do so, and they sustain a head injury, it could be argued that they should be partially responsible for causing their own injuries. In these other places, comparative negligence laws could reduce the total amount of compensation they receive.

However, because helmets are not required by law in Illinois, the failure to wear a helmet should not affect how much compensation a motorcycle crash victim receives, even if they sustain a head injury caused by the accident. If another driver is responsible for causing the accident, their insurance carrier should be responsible for paying compensation.

We strongly encourage any motorcycle crash victim to work with a skilled motorcycle accident attorney who has experience handling these claims and can push back against any allegations of fault to help their client recover maximum compensation.