Wisconsin Helmet Laws

Wearing a helmet while using a motorcycle or bicycle greatly reduces the risk of injury in the event of an accident – this is common knowledge, yet some motorcycle and bicycle users prefer to ride without a helmet, either for convenience or just as a matter of preference.

However, in the state of Wisconsin, there are state laws that regulate helmet use. In this blog post, we’ll explain some of those rules and statutes relating to bicycle and motorcycle helmet usage in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Motorcycle Helmet Laws

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, wearing helmets saved the lives of more than 7,400 motorcyclists in one recent decade. As the efficacy of motorcycle helmets is better understood, more states are passing motorcycle helmet laws. Here is what you need to know about the motorcycle helmet law in Wisconsin. 

Why Do States Have Motorcycle Helmet Laws?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has the following to say about the need and usefulness of motorcycle helmets:

  • More than 80% of motorcycle crashes result in injury or death to the motorcyclists
  • A motorcyclist is 16 times more likely to die in a crash than passenger vehicle drivers, per mile driven 
  • Wearing a motorcycle helmet reduces the risk of death by 29%
  • Head injuries are the leading cause of death in motorcycle crashes
  • Riders who do not wear a helmet are 40% more likely to suffer a fatal head injury
  • Motorcycle helmets are 67% effective in preventing traumatic brain injuries
  • State helmet use laws typically result in more motorcyclists and passengers wearing helmets
  • A significant decrease in motorcyclist deaths have often followed the passing of motorcycle helmet laws
  • A significant increase in motorcyclist deaths have often followed the repeal of motorcycle helmet laws

What is Wisconsin’s Motorcycle Helmet Law?

Wisconsin law states: “No person who holds an instructional permit… or who is under 18 years of age may operate or ride upon a motorcycle on any highway unless the person wearing protective headgear” that meets federal standards. Additionally, it states that “no person may operate a motorcycle when carrying a passenger under 18 years of age unless the passenger is wearing protective headgear.” This law means that you only have to wear a helmet on a motorcycle if:

  • You hold a motorcycle instructional permit
  • You are under 18 years of age and driving the motorcycle
  • You are under 18 years of age and are a passenger on a motorcycle

Do I Have to Wear Any Other Protective Gear When on a Motorcycle?

Wisconsin law requires anyone operating a motorcycle to wear protective eyewear, which may include:

  • A protective face shield attached to a helmet
  • Glasses
  • Goggles

The Wisconsin Department of Transportationstrongly urges” (but does not require) motorcyclists to wear a helmet, a riding jacket, long pants, over-the-ankle boots, and full-fingered leather gloves.

Can I Recover Compensation If I Am Hurt in a Motorcycle Accident While Not Wearing a Helmet?

Yes, you can still recover compensation if you are hurt in a motorcycle accident – even if you were not wearing a helmet at the time. This has been a controversial issue in the law. Motorcycle accident victims and their supporters often argue that even if the rider was wearing a helmet, the other driver is still at fault for the accident. Not wearing a helmet does not cause motorcycle accidents. However, defendants have sometimes been able to argue that the amount of compensation the accident victim can recover should be reduced because their injuries might not have been as severe if they were wearing a helmet. However, Wisconsin law directly addresses this issue and states that “failure by a person who operates…a motorcycle…to use protective headgear shall not reduce recovery for injuries or damages by the person or the person’s legal representative in any civil action.” Despite the law, insurance companies may still try to reduce your recovery, so it is best to work with an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer who can protect your rights. 

Am I Required to Wear a Bicycle Helmet in Wisconsin?

Unlike motorcycles, Wisconsin law does not require any bicycle rider to wear a helmet, even if the rider is under age 18. However, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation has noted that bicycles are considered “vehicles” on Wisconsin roadways, and that bicycles must obey all other rules and laws that apply to cars, motorcycles, and other vehicles.

Additionally, the state government strongly recommends that bicycle riders use helmets, as wearing a helmet significantly reduces a bicyclist’s risk of injury or death when involved in a crash.

What About Other Vehicles, like Mopeds or Scooters?

Similar to bicycles, Wisconsin law does not require moped or scooter operators to use helmets. Nonetheless, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation notes that “a moped offers the rider almost no protection in case of a crash,” and strongly encourages moped and scooter users to use helmets while operating.

If you find yourself injured after an accident on a motorcycle, bicycle, moped, or any other similar vehicle, you should speak with an attorney as soon as possible to assess your rights and inquire into the possibility of a lawsuit to recover compensation for your injuries. Our team is ready to assist – contact us today to set up a free consultation.