Can you wear a helmet in a car?
May 27, 2005 11:55 AM   Subscribe

So the old "Helmet Law" debate flared up on a motorcycle mailing list I'm on. A new twist came about this time though; the claim is outstanding that it's actually illegal to wear a helmet while driving a passenger car or truck on public roads. Is this true?

Can anyone verify/disprove this? I'm specifically interested in the state of New Jersey in the USA, but citations of law code from anywhere is welcome.
posted by de void to Travel & Transportation (19 answers total)
I went here and searched on "helmet" and didn't find anything.
posted by JanetLand at 12:01 PM on May 27, 2005

I also couldn't find it in the statutes of my state. If you want to search the laws in other states, [name of state].gov usually has a link to that state's legislature and statutes.
posted by JanetLand at 12:04 PM on May 27, 2005

Don't know about the legality, but it makes sense for visibility reasons.
posted by agregoli at 12:24 PM on May 27, 2005

I don't know if helmet-wearing is proscribed, specifically, but I'm sure most states have laws that prohibit you from wearing anything on your head while driving that seriously constrains your range of vision. It's probably equally illegal to wear blinders, or binoculars, under those same statutes.
posted by LairBob at 12:26 PM on May 27, 2005

In Ontairo, Canada it is required to wear a helmet when riding a bicycle (now exempted under Regulation 610 for over 18s, it was almost unenforcable before that), horse, or motorbike. No mention is made to wearing a helmet in a car, so, apart from case law showing opposite, or the helmet obscuring visibility as LairBob mentioned, I think it would be legal.

It is also illegal to drive a vehicle requring helmets with passengers under 16 that choose not to wear helmets. Furthermore, it is legally considered a fault on the parents' part if they allow their under 16 children on such a vehicle without a helmet.
posted by shepd at 12:51 PM on May 27, 2005

On a side note, in Utah, they don't make motocyclists wear helmets, but they won't let me ride in even a non-powerboat without a life preserver. What's that all about?
posted by trbrts at 12:53 PM on May 27, 2005

I'm not sure of the exact legalities of the helmet law. But I can speak from experience that if you are driving a car on a twisty road at some speed... and you happen to be wearing a fullface helmet and fireproof suit... You're not going to talk your way out of the speeding ticket.
posted by tumble at 1:53 PM on May 27, 2005 [5 favorites]

There is nothing(that I can find) about it in the CA vehicle code either.
posted by madajb at 1:57 PM on May 27, 2005

Looking through the New Jersey Driver Manual I could find anything about helmets, but caught wearing one in a car they could probably site you for Reckless Driving if the officer wasn’t in a generous mood.

trbrts: It’s cheaper to hose someone off the pavement than it is to dredge a body out of a lake/river.
posted by Tenuki at 2:18 PM on May 27, 2005

Interesting comments on visibility/vision. One thing that always comes up in motorcycle helmet discussions is visibility, and the assertion is always made that a (properly fitting) helmet doesn't reduce your peripheral vision ... so does the highway patrol actually change their stance on that if you're wearing the helmet in a car?
posted by hattifattener at 3:01 PM on May 27, 2005

Sorry I can't confirm the veracity of the no-helmet-in-car-law thingy, but I don't doubt that wearing a helmet would land you a reckless driving rap. I was once quizzed for 30 minutes by an insurance agent whether or not my street car had a racing harness. (The "logic" being, why would you NEED the extra safety if you're not doing anything dangerous/risky?)

I swear, though, after spending a weekend in a proper race car (full helmet, firesuit, 5-point harness, full roll-cage, etc.), I feel positively NAKED driving a street car without a helmet. Look around in your car and consider how it'd feel to whack your naked noggin on all those hard surfaces -- side glass, in particular.

What percentage of vehicular fatalities are from head injuries? Honestly, I'd be surprised if some liberal, safety-obsessed country doesn't implement mandatory automotive helmet law in the next 10 years. We'll laugh, then their traffic fatalities will will drop by 70%...
posted by LordSludge at 3:02 PM on May 27, 2005

hattifatter: I can only suggest that the posters who mentioned that haven't worn a good MC helmet recently. My Shoei doesn't restrict my vision in any fashion. It's -so- much more comfortable to ride with a helmet on than off ... no dust and bugs getting into your eyes, no grit and rocks from trucks hitting your face, it reduces the wind noise, it lets you concentrate better...

The only potential reason that could think of for laws against wearing a lid in a car is that there may not be enough head room for it in the passenger compartment, or it might put your head at a weird angle against the headrest.
posted by SpecialK at 4:40 PM on May 27, 2005

tumble writes "I'm not sure of the exact legalities of the helmet law. But I can speak from experience that if you are driving a car on a twisty road at some speed... and you happen to be wearing a fullface helmet and fireproof suit... You're not going to talk your way out of the speeding ticket."

And a Toyota Corolla with 600W of lighting on the bumper will be the most interesting thing a traffic cop in Victoria has ever seen.

As far as the helmet illegal in cars thing; traffic cops have all sorts of catch all regulations they can cite you under. Here in Alberta they could write you a ticket for "stunting" for example which is "any act that can distract or sway the attention of other drivers on the road". As you can see there is a lot of leeway there. I've seen stunting tickets for chirping tires, revving engines, neon lights. So even though there is no specific law you can get a ticket for wearing a helmet under this kind of law. As it's often pure harassment the tickets often get thrown out in court. BC has a section prohibiting displays of speed, I personally received a written warning for "excessive acceleration onto a highway" under it.
posted by Mitheral at 12:25 AM on May 28, 2005

I once knew a performance artist in Seattle who used to drive around in a ford festiva with his motorcycle helmet on, always carefully obeying the speed limit. His goal was to troll for police officers, in hopes of having a nice pleasant conversation, effectively blowing their mind. I don't recall if he ever succeeded in getting pulled over.

also, what Tenuki said. NJ Police will pull you over for any reason. The only thing that helps is having lots of PBA stickers prominently displayed on your car.
posted by b1tr0t at 12:31 AM on May 28, 2005

I recall reading an article in Denver some years back when they set up those speed cameras where an off-duty cop knew the person operating the camera, so, as a joke, he wore a mask and sped by insanely fast, assuming his friend would get the joke and cancel out the ticket. Instead he was charged with speeding -- and with wearing a mask! (I tried finding this article on Google but couldn't locate it). So, perhaps there is a law about obscuring idenity ? while operating a passenger vehicle that could be interpreted to include helmets.
posted by fourstar at 7:11 AM on May 28, 2005

Without reading everyones comments (apologies if its been said) in CA, its illegal to drive "with both ears covered". Thats the wording in the handbook I believe - although the handbook doesnt always follow the vehicle code exactly, and if you ask a DMV employee, you'll likely get a different answer every time. The law in question is to do with wearing earphones etc. but I'm sure it could be bastardized to cover a helmet.

What difference does it make anyway?
posted by BadSeamus at 1:09 PM on May 28, 2005

What difference does it make anyway?

The covered-ears prohibition is based on the idea that you can't hear other cars honking warnings, or emergency vehicle sirens, if your ears are covered. It doesn't address your cranking your earthshaking stereo system up to eleven, though.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:20 PM on May 28, 2005

A data point: I have seen military bases where it is mandatory to drive HMMWV's (Humvees) with helmets and flak jackets. So, the military thinks it's a good idea.No, it wasn't a popular rule.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 9:56 PM on May 28, 2005

Well, the base commander anyways.
posted by Mitheral at 10:02 PM on May 29, 2005

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