As a motorcycle rider, whether you ride local or tour across state lines, you need to know about the helmet laws where you are riding. If you ride through Boston, do you have to wear a motorcycle helmet? If you fail to wear a motorcycle helmet and are stopped by police, what consequences can you face?
All motorcycle riders should wear helmets at all times. Failure to wear a helmet can end in catastrophic injuries, including traumatic brain injury, facial injuries, and neck injuries. Understanding Boston laws can prepare you to safely navigate the roads of Boston on your motorcycle.
Boston Helmet Requirements
Per Massachusetts law, all Boston motorcycle riders must wear helmets at all times while operating a motorcycle. Unlike some states, Massachusetts requires all riders, regardless of age, to wear a helmet. That means that riders over 21 in Boston have the same requirements as a minor rider. Riders must choose a DOT-approved helmet, to ensure high-quality protection.
Boston riders should wear a plastic, shatter-resistant face shield on their helmets or goggles. Especially if the motorcycle does not come equipped with a windshield or windscreen, which could catch potential hazards on the road, Boston riders need eye protection. A motorcycle helmet with a face shield tends to offer the highest degree of protection.
A face shield offers several advantages. First, it blocks out some of the wind whistling around you as you ride down the streets of Boston, which can prevent your eyes from tearing up. If you struggle to look around you, you may have a hard time seeing everything that takes place on the road, which can make it more difficult for you to avoid potential accidents.
In the heavy traffic usually present in the Boston area, full visibility can be critical to avoiding accidents. During rush hours, in particular, distracted drivers and drivers in a hurry to reach their destinations may have a hard time keeping track of motorcycles around them, which makes full visibility of the motorcyclist all the more important to reduce the odds of ending up in a severe accident.
Face shields also decrease the odds that something will blow into your eye: a bug, a piece of debris from the road, or even mere precipitation. If you have something in your eye, you may instinctively remove one hand from your motorcycle to control it. Often, this move can prove catastrophic, since you can lose control of your motorcycle completely. A simple face shield can decrease the risk of many types of accidents on the road.
The Benefits of Helmet Use
Massachusetts law requires Boston motorcycle riders to wear a helmet at all times for a reason: because helmet use substantially reduces the risk of serious head, neck, and facial injuries. Without a helmet, motorcycle riders can sustain severe injuries with lifelong impacts.
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
In a motorcycle accident, a helmet offers the only protection your head has from the force of the accident. A motorcycle accident can cause you to strike your head against the pavement, another vehicle, or other hard objects with great force. You may end up struck directly in the head by the vehicle that hits you.
If you fail to wear a helmet, that force has nowhere to be absorbed but in your skull. On the other hand, if you wear a helmet, it can absorb some of the force, which means that you may suffer less severe TBI or that you may avoid brain injury altogether.
TBI can interfere with many of the aspects of your daily life. Immediately after waking from an accident, victims with TBI often show substantial signs of disorientation and confusion. They may even appear drunk as they move around the accident scene if they can move around the scene at all. As time passes, the full implications of TBI become clear.
Many victims with TBI struggle with ongoing gaps in their long-term memory or have trouble with short-term memory. Short-term memory challenges can make it difficult for victims to follow simple instructions, remember why they walked into a room, or finish a simple task. Victims may also struggle with focus and concentration challenges that make it very difficult for them to fully engage in either work or leisure activities.
Most DOT-approved helmets extend out beyond the user’s face, providing a barrier that can prevent you from face-planting into the ground in an accident. The force of a motorcycle collision can cause severe facial injuries, especially if the victim does not wear a helmet or the helmet does not offer adequate facial protection.
Road rash from scraping across the pavement alone can cause severe scarring and may lead to infections, which can kill a motorcyclist. Many victims with facial injuries also suffer broken bones in the face, which can mean a long road to recovery and a permanent change in appearance. While plastic surgery can restore some normal appearance, many victims find that their appearance never entirely returns to normal.
In addition to protecting your head and face, your motorcycle helmet can help protect your neck in a severe accident. Neck injuries can include everything from whiplash to spinal cord injuries. While whiplash might only temporarily interfere with mobility and cause pain when you move or turn your head, whiplash spinal cord injuries often have lifelong consequences, including paralysis.
Not only do spinal cord injury victims lose mobility—either partial or complete, depending on the extent of the injury—below the site of the injury, they may also suffer some loss of organ function below the injury. Spinal cord injuries can even decrease a victim’s overall life expectancy.
Can I File a Boston Motorcycle Accident Claim Even If I Didn’t Wear a Helmet?
You chose not to wear a helmet, failed to properly fasten your helmet, or wore a helmet not approved by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, and you suffered injuries in a motorcycle accident. Who bears liability for that accident?
Failing to wear a proper helmet in a Boston motorcycle accident does not mean that you do not have the right to file a claim, even if not wearing a helmet contributed to the extent of your accident injuries. However, you should contact an experienced motorcycle accident attorney to learn more about your right to compensation after suffering any injuries in a motorcycle accident in which you were not wearing a helmet.
If you failed to wear a helmet at the time of the accident, it may become more complicated to assign liability to others, though it is possible with the help of a skilled motorcycle accident lawyer.
What caused your accident?
If your own negligence caused the accident—if, for example, you suffered injuries in a single-vehicle accident because you were distracted, or you pulled out in front of another car while you did not have the right-of-way and the other driver did not have time to avoid you—you might not have grounds for a personal injury claim.
In a Boston motorcycle accident that resulted from another driver’s negligence, however, you may still have the right to claim compensation for your injuries, regardless of your helmet use. Suppose, for example, that the other driver chose to drive while impaired by drugs or alcohol and drifted over into your lane, causing you to smash into the dividing wall. You may still have grounds to file a personal injury claim, even if your lack of helmet use caused you to suffer worse injuries.
Talk to an attorney about whether your failure to wear a helmet may affect the compensation you can recover through a personal injury claim, and how. A driver may bear liability for his actions on the road regardless of your decision to not wear a helmet. However, your lack of helmet use may mean some liability for your injuries rests with you, and the other driver will not be responsible for compensating you for the full extent of your injuries.
Helmet Use When Operating Other Personal Vehicles in Boston
Boston’s helmet requirements extend beyond motorcycle riders to operators of smaller personal vehicles, such as motorcycles, motorized bicycles, mopeds, and scooters. These smaller vehicles often travel at slower speeds. In fact, motorized bicycles cannot exceed 25 miles per hour on the streets of Boston. Furthermore, drivers of these vehicles must hold a valid driver’s license or permit. In addition, these riders and their passengers must wear approved helmets.
The Consequences for Failing to Wear a Helmet
In Boston, you must legally wear a helmet any time you operate a motorcycle. If you fail to wear a helmet, you can face legal penalties. The first failure to wear a helmet offense can result in a fine of $35 for motorcycle riders. For the riders of smaller motorized vehicles, including motorized bicycles, scooters, and mopeds, failure to wear a helmet generally costs $25.
After your first offense, however, the cost of that fine goes up. After the second offense, you may face a fine of $75 to $100.
In addition, you may face other costs related to your decision to not wear a motorcycle helmet. First, the officer that stops you may require you to have your motorcycle towed away from the scene of the accident or retrieved by someone else, since you cannot legally and safely operate it yourself without a helmet. You can lose valuable time, especially in heavy Boston traffic.
You might also experience insurance increases related to your lack of helmet use. Massachusetts insurance companies consider it an increased liability to cover a driver who does not wear a helmet, since you may sustain more severe injuries and face higher medical costs because of those decisions. Because of those challenges, you may end up paying much more for your insurance. Insurance hikes may increase more rapidly after a second or third offense.
And, of course, the worst consequence of not wearing a helmet is experiencing severe injuries in the event of an accident. Always wear a helmet, however, contact an experienced Boston motorcycle accident attorney if you were hit while on a motorcycle or other personal vehicle, regardless of whether or not you were wearing a helmet. Even if you might be partly responsible for not wearing a helmet, you may still be entitled to some compensation from the other driver.