Pennsylvania Motorcycle Helmet Law

Under Pennsylvania law, you must wear a helmet while operating or riding a motorcycle unless you meet state-mandated qualifications.
Written by Matthew Lynaugh
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
, a helmet must be worn on any motorcycle (including autocycle) rider under 21 years of age. Additionally, a helmet must be worn if the rider or passenger does not have two years of operating experience or has not completed an approved PennDOT or Motorcycle Safety Foundation course.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), helmets are estimated to be 37% effective in preventing motorcycle rider fatalities. 
Furthermore, the comparison between states with and without universal helmet laws is even more jarring. In states without such laws, 57% of motorcyclists killed in 2019 were not wearing helmets. In states with helmet laws, only 9%. 

Do you have to wear a motorcycle helmet in Pennsylvania?

If you are under 21 years old or do not meet the necessary requirements set by the state of Pennsylvania, you must wear a helmet while operating or riding a motorcycle.
Under the current Pennsylvania motorcycle helmet law, riders over the age of 21 that have either been riding for two years or completed the necessary courses can choose not to wear a helmet.
Helmets that meet the standards approved by the United States Department of Transportation are given a “DOT” sticker to be placed on the back of the helmet’s outer shell. The helmet must be permanently labeled in a legible manner with the following:
  • Name or identification of manufacture
  • Precise model designation
  • Size
  • Month and year the helmet was manufactured
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Exceptions to Pennsylvania motorcycle helmet law

Helmets are strongly recommended as a safety measure for all motorcyclists, but there are some exceptions for those that do not wish to wear one.
One example is if you are operating or occupying a three-wheeled motorcycle equipped with an enclosed cab
In addition, riders over the age of 21 who have either been licensed to operate a motorcycle for two years or completed a safety course approved by the department or the Motorcycle Safety Foundation can also opt out of wearing a helmet. 

Protective eyewear

Perhaps the unsung hero in the motorcycle protective equipment realm, eyewear plays an incredibly important role in defending the rider. Unlike helmets, eyewear is required for most riders and carries no exceptions based on age or experience.
Title 75
of the Statutes of Pennsylvania, no person shall operate or ride a motorcycle without an eye-protective device approved by the department unless he or she is on a motorized pedalcycle or a three-wheeled motorcycle with an enclosed cab.
Eyewear will shield your eyes from the wind, bugs, rocks, and any other flying debris you could encounter in your travels, making it highly recommended that your protection is shatter-proof. The roads and weather can be unpredictable, and you’ll be glad you had to comply with this law.

Why it’s important to wear a motorcycle helmet

Although the punishment for not wearing a motorcycle helmet in Pennsylvania is not published by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, the price you pay for choosing not to wear one can cost more than any fine
The NHTSA reports that 51% of Pennsylvania motorcycle fatalities involved unhelmeted riders in 2019. A helmet is the single most effective way to prevent a serious head injury—it is estimated that 1,872 lives were saved in 2017 thanks to riders wearing a helmet.
Choosing to wear a helmet despite not being legally required to, may just be the most important decision you ever make.

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