Wisconsin Motorcycle Helmet Laws

Under Wisconsin law, you must wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle unless you’re over 21 and have proof of health insurance.
Written by Sara Brody
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
law, motorcyclists or passengers under the age of 18 must wear a motorcycle helmet. This also holds true for adult motorcyclists who possess only instructional permits.
Since the 1960s, states have passed various motorcycle helmet laws in an effort to reduce fatalities. According to the
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
, motorcycle accidents constituted about 14% of all traffic fatalities in 2019.
We’ll cover the basics of the law, the few exceptions, and the statistics on unhelmeted fatalities in the Badger State.

Do you have to wear a motorcycle helmet in Wisconsin?

If you’re under the age of 18 or hold only an instructional permit, you must wear a motorcycle helmet while riding a motorcycle in Wisconsin. 
Under the current Wisconsin motorcycle helmet law, riders over the age of 18 can choose whether or not to wear a helmet. However, protective eyewear—including glasses, goggles, or a face shield attached to a helmet—is required for all riders regardless of age. 

Exceptions to Wisconsin’s motorcycle helmet law

Currently, there is only one exception to Wisconsin’s motorcycle helmet law: riders under the age of 18 or those possessing only instructional permits may operate a motorcycle without a helmet if they are participating in a parade sanctioned by the local municipality.

Penalties for breaking Wisconsin’s motorcycle helmet law

In Wisconsin, failure to comply with the motorcycle law can result in a fine of no less than $10 nor more than $200.

Why it’s important to wear a motorcycle helmet

While a $10 fine might seem like nothing, the cost of riding a motorcycle without a helmet can in fact be much greater. To better understand the potential consequences of ignoring proper motorcycle safety, we’ll walk you through the history of the motorcycle helmet and some recent motorcycle accident statistics.
When British army officer and diplomat T.E. Lawerence
died in a motorcycle accident in 1935
, the tragedy attracted attention due to Lawerence’s fame and young age. Better known as “Lawrence of Arabia,” he was only 46 at the time of the crash. In response, neurologist Hugh Cairns pioneered research on motorcycle helmets to prevent future deaths. 
Motorcycle helmet laws save hundreds of lives per year, and NHTSA estimates support that claim.
While only 9% of motorcyclists killed on the road are unhelmeted in states with universal helmet laws, the total climbs significantly to 57% in states without such safety requirements.
In Wisconsin, unfortunately, the statistics are actually worse than the nationwide averages. Of Wisconsin’s
85 motorcycle deaths
in 2019, unhelmeted riders made up 64% of fatalities. Wearing a motorcycle helmet, even if you’re over the age of 18, is always the safest choice.
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