Motorcycle Helmet Laws in Tennessee

Under Tennessee law, all drivers or passengers of motorcycles must be wearing a federally approved helmet or face a fine of $50 and potential jail time.
Written by Andrea Barrett
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
law states that all drivers and passengers of a motorcycle or motorized bicycle are required to wear a helmet meeting the federal standards contained in 49 CFR 571.218. Violations of the law can land you a $50 fine, jail time, or both. 
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Do you have to wear a motorcycle helmet in Tennessee?

Tennessee law states that any driver of a motorcycle or motorized bicycle is required to wear a crash helmet meeting federal requirements. If the driver is over the age of 21, the helmet is required to meet the following standards: 
  • Helmet meets federal motor vehicle safety standards specified in
    49 CFR 571.218
  • Ventilation airways must be made through the entire shell of the helmet, but must not exceed one and one-half inches (1½″) in diameter
  • The protective surface (shell) does not have to be a continuous contour
  • The helmet must be labeled signifying that it complies with the requirements of the American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM), the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the Southern Impact Research Center (SIRC), or the Snell Foundation
Under the current Tennessee motorcycle helmet law, anyone riding a motorcycle or motorized bicycle must wear a helmet—regardless of age. Drivers over the age of 21 are allowed certain modifications to helmet features.

Exceptions to Tennessee’s motorcycle helmet law

Under the
Tennessee Code
, motorcycle helmet law exemptions may apply to certain individuals who are:
  • Riding with an enclosed cab
  • Riding autocycles, as defined in
    , that are fully enclosed
  • Golf carts
  • In a parade, riding at a speed of less than thirty (30) miles per hour, and if the person is eighteen (18) years or older
  • In a funeral procession, memorial ride under police escort, or body escort detail provided that: 
  • The driver is traveling at a speed no more than 30 miles per hour
  • The driver or passenger is over the age of 21
  • The funeral procession, memorial ride, or body escort detail does not exceed a distance of 50 miles

Penalties for breaking Tennessee’s motorcycle helmet law

Violation of the Tennessee motorcycle helmet law is classified as a Class C misdemeanor and is punishable by a maximum of 30 days in jail, a $50 fine, or both.

Why it’s important to wear a motorcycle helmet

A $50 fine may not seem like a huge deal, but the alternative of spending 30 days in jail is not appealing to most drivers. Compared to driving a car, motorcyclists are at a substantially higher risk of injury and fatality.
found that in 2019, motorcyclist fatalities were 29 times more likely to occur than passenger car occupant fatalities in traffic crashes. These crashes resulted in more than 5,000 deaths and 84,000 injuries. What’s more, in states that do not have motorcycle helmet laws, 57% of cyclists killed in 2019 were not wearing a helmet compared to only 9% killed in states with helmet laws. 
Tennessee isn’t exempt from these statistics. In 2019, the
Tennessee Government
published statistics showing that 14 of the 153 motorcycle crash fatalities were drivers not wearing a helmet. In 2020, that number decreased slightly to 151 total crashes, 13 of which were not wearing helmets. 
If you don’t want to become one of the statistics, it’s important to follow Tennessee laws and wear a helmet when driving or riding on a motorcycle. Be sure to invest in decent
motorcycle insurance
, too!
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