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Are You Required to Wear a Motorcycle Helmet in Oklahoma?

Posted on: December 12, 2019 by Edwards & Patterson Law

Father and son wearing helmet for safety.

Oklahoma is not a universal helmet state. This means that helmets are not required for all motorcyclists and passengers in our state. Instead, Oklahoma requires riders and passengers only under the age of 18 to wear a helmet.

Many people choose to ride motorcycles without a helmet. While every adult motorcycle rider in our state has this right, insurance companies often try to use it against them in an effort to deny or reduce their claim. This is not right. At Edwards & Patterson Law, we believe that insurance companies should be held responsible for paying just compensation to motorcycle accident victims, regardless of whether victims wear a helmet or exercise their right to ride without one.

Here, we look closer at Oklahoma’s helmet laws, and we discuss your legal rights and options if a negligent driver hurts you while you are riding your motorcycle in Tulsa, McAlester or elsewhere within our state. To discuss the specific facts of your case, contact us today and receive a free consultation.

What Are Oklahoma’s Helmet Laws?

Motorcycle accident happening along the highway.Today, helmet laws are enacted by each state, and it is up to each state to enforce its laws. However, at one time, the federal government basically required each state to pass universal helmet laws. Only three state did not comply with the law, and the federal government penalized them by denying them highway safety funds.

In 1976, Congress reversed that law, as the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) notes. Congress allowed states to create their own laws without penalty. Shortly after this change, many states enacted less stringent motorcycle helmet laws, including Oklahoma.

Today, Oklahoma law requires only bikers and passengers under the age of 18 to wear a helmet while on a motorcycle. Additionally, the law requires:

  • Two rearview mirrors on a motorcycle
  • A windshield installed on the bike or, in lieu of a windshield, protective eyewear worn by the rider
  • An adequate speedometer
  • A fender covering each wheel
  • A muffler or noise-suppression system
  • Handlebars that are no higher than the eye level of the operator.

Bikers and passengers under the age of 18 must not only wear a helmet. They must wear a specific kind of helmet. The only type of helmet allowed by law is one that complies with standards established by federal law.

Why Should You Wear a Helmet?

Although not everyone is required to wear a motorcycle helmet in Oklahoma, you should still consider wearing one when you ride due to the clear safety benefits. A quick glance at the most recent statistics shows why.

Motorcyclist fatalities decreased nationally in 2017 from the prior year, according to the GHSA’s most recent statistics. Still, too many motorcyclists’ lives are lost each year. The GHSA places that number of fatalities at nearly 5,000.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA), motorcycle helmets give bikers a 37 percent greater chance of not being killed in a motorcycle accident. In other words, if an average of 5,000 people die in motorcycle crashes each year in the U.S., an estimated 1,850 of those lives could have been saved if the motorcyclist had been wearing a helmet.

The NHTSA researchers have found that traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) and other injuries in motorcycle accidents are lower in universal helmet states than they are in states where helmets are considered optional for many riders. This should not be surprising.

During a motorcycle crash, bikers often fall from their motorcycle, or they are thrown from it. As result, they may land on the ground head-first, or they may collide with the other vehicle involved in the collision. The motorcyclist may suffer severe injuries such as TBI, which can have a lifelong impact on the motorcyclist’s life.

Even in rare cases when a motorcyclist’s head doesn’t hit anything in a crash, the simple act of being jostled around can cause a serious TBI. A helmet though, can stabilize the head and neck, which can help to prevent the brain from becoming shaken in a crash.

What Happens If You Get in a Motorcycle Wreck While Not Wearing a Helmet?

Oklahoma follows a modified comparative negligence law. If an accident victim’s own negligence contributed to his or her injuries, the victim’s compensation can be reduced. Victims are assigned a percentage of fault. Their compensation can be reduced based on that percentage. If the accident victim’s percentage of fault is greater than the combined fault of the other parties, the victim can be barred from recovering any compensation.

Insurance companies and at-fault parties may try to use this law to reduce or deny your compensation after a motorcycle accident. They may claim that because you chose not to wear a helmet, you did not take the proper steps to protect yourself. So, you are partly responsible for your injuries.

It’s important to understand that in Oklahoma, you have the right to ride helmet-free if you are an adult. Our legal team will protect your rights and ensure that just because you exercised your right, it will not be held against you. We know how to challenge these insurance company arguments and fight for all compensation that our clients deserve.

Our Oklahoma Motorcycle Accident Lawyers Will Fight for You

Our motorcycle accident lawyers know that no matter how bikers choose to ride, they have rights which must be respected. At Edwards & Patterson Law, we are committed to protecting those rights and holding negligent drivers accountable for paying compensation when they cause a crash that harms others.

We will conduct a full investigation of your case, collect the evidence necessary to substantiate your claim and help you to pursue full and fair compensation. While guiding you through the personal injury claims process, we will also lend a listening ear and ensure that you know that we truly care about you, your family and your future. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

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  • Contact Edwards & Patterson Law Firm today for a free consultation.
  • Contact Edwards & Patterson Law Firm today for a free consultation.
  • Contact Edwards & Patterson Law Firm today for a free consultation.
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