Many Missouri residents enjoy riding motorcycles and other motorized bikes, scooters, and mopeds. These vehicles are small, light, affordable, and can offer a convenient alternative to walking or public transportation. While Missouri does not impose any helmet laws on motorized bike and scooter use, the state does uphold a universal law for motorcycle helmets. Missouri’s universal motorcycle helmet law requires all operators and passengers to wear appropriate headgear at all times while riding.
Riding any motorcycle is inherently dangerous. These vehicles offer no protection to their riders during accidents; while a passenger vehicle’s frame, doors, and body panels can cushion the impact of a crash and protect the vehicle’s occupants, the force of impact goes straight to the rider and passenger when a motorcycle accident happens.
Many critics of universal helmet laws justify their disagreement by stating the government should not have the right to tell an adult which risks he or she may take, and that choosing to wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle should remain a personal choice. However, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports that helmets are about 67% effective in preventing brain injuries and 37% effective in preventing fatal head injuries.
Some riders may wonder if their vehicles qualify as motorcycles under Missouri law. The state recognizes any vehicle that has a top speed greater than 30mph on flat ground, an engine size greater than 50 cubic centimeters, and/or a motor capable of producing more than three brake horsepower qualifies as a motorcycle, thus requiring a helmet to operate or ride as a passenger.
In addition to potentially saving a rider’s or passenger’s life, a motorcycle helmet can also help limit legal liability for a motorcycle rider or passenger. Missouri law only enforces a $25 minimum fine for helmet violations, but the real cost of failing to wear a helmet can be much higher. For example, if a motorcyclist has an accident with another driver and sustains serious injuries, it is likely that he or she could face limitations on recovery due to his or her failure to follow Missouri’s helmet law. This could constitute comparative negligence, reducing the injured rider’s claim value by a percentage equal to his or her fault for causing the accident.
Motorcycle accidents, even those that occur at relatively low speeds, always carry a significant potential for causing catastrophic injuries. Motorcycle accidents can easily lead to bone fractures, lacerations, “road rash” from sliding on pavement at high speed, spinal cord injuries, and traumatic brain injuries. A helmet could be what saves a rider’s life in a motorcycle accident. Even mild traumatic brain injuries can cause long-term symptoms or even permanent cognitive and/or behavioral changes.
The IIHS and the Department of Transportation recommend all riders purchase appropriately fitting motorcycle helmets with DoT approval. If a helmet has DoT approval, this means it meets the safety specifications set forth by the DoT and offers a higher level of protection than an unapproved motorcycle helmet. Take time to research helmet options before purchasing and remember the type of helmet you purchase informs the safety level of the device. Generally, the safest options are helmets that fully cover the head and face with a movable visor. This allows for the greatest level of protection without limiting visibility.
If you or a loved one recently had a motorcycle accident and sustained injuries, you may have grounds for a personal injury claim against whoever caused your accident. To learn more about your legal options, contact our Kansas City motorcycle accident lawyers for a free consultation.
Additionally, if you purchased a motorcycle helmet that did not perform as advertised or failed to meet claimed crash safety specifications, our product liability lawyers can help. You could have grounds for a product liability claim against the manufacturer.