Washington Motorcycle Helmet Laws

Washington law requires that all drivers and passengers on motorcycles wear a helmet that meets U.S. Department of Transportation standards.
Written by Amber Reed
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
In the state of Washington, all drivers and passengers of motorcycles or mopeds must wear helmets that meet the requirements established by the U.S. Department of Transportation. If the vehicle does not have a windshield, then the driver must wear goggles, glasses, or a face shield that conforms to state regulations. 
CDC estimates
that motorcycle helmets reduce the risk of head injury by 69% and fatalities by 37%. Helmets don’t just save lives—the CDC also states that if every motorcyclist and passenger wore a helmet, our economy would be spared over $1 billion.
Motorcycle laws vary according to state, and
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Do you have to wear a motorcycle helmet in Washington?

Yes. According to
RCW 46.37.530
, all operators and passengers of motorcycles, motor-driven cycles, and mopeds are required to wear an approved helmet. Drivers are also required to wear state-approved goggles, glasses, or face shields, unless the vehicle has a windscreen. 
Washington is one of several states that have universal helmet laws, adopting theirs in 1990. 

Exceptions to Washington’s motorcycle helmet law

There are a few very specific exceptions to Washington’s helmet law. Helmets are not required if the vehicle is an “antique motor-driven cycle” or is equipped with all of the following: 
  • A steering wheel
  • Approved seatbelts
  • A partially or completely enclosed seating area that meets prescribed standards
Currently, proposed legislation would create a three-year test period wherein insured riders over 21 would be allowed to ride without helmets. Time will tell if this law comes to fruition. 

Penalties for breaking Washington’s motorcycle helmet law

Not wearing a motorcycle helmet when required in Washington is treated as a traffic infraction and is punishable by a fine of up to $250.
MORE: How to get car insurance with a bad driving record

Why it’s important to wear a motorcycle helmet

The $250 fine isn’t cheap, but to be honest, it's fairly minor when compared to the other reasons that you should wear a motorcycle helmet. 
Motorcycle riders are at an increased risk of accidents and death on the roads. Their smaller profile means that they’re less likely to be seen by others, and the lack of protection that a motorcycle offers its occupants means that even minor accidents could result in major injury. 
In the 1960s, the U.S. government began incentivizing states to pass motorcycle helmet laws, and it’s been instrumental in reducing the number of fatalities and head injuries. A 2019 study reported by the NHTSA showed that in states without universal helmet laws, 57% of motorcyclists killed were not wearing helmets. In states with universal helmet laws, only 9% of those killed were unhelmeted. 
Wearing a helmet at all times, even in a state where it’s not required by law, is the smart choice. 

How to find affordable car and motorcycle insurance

A helmet will help keep you safe in the event of a motorcycle accident, and
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