Helmet Laws in Indiana

Feb 14

In 2020, over 5,500 motorcyclists lost their lives in motorcycle crashes. Sadly, many of these deaths could have been avoided if riders had taken the necessary precautions before mounting their bikes.

If you have been in a motorcycle accident, you probably have questions. The Indianapolis motorcycle accident lawyers of Blackburn Romey have detailed information you need to know about motorcycle regulations in Indiana. 


What is Indiana’s Helmet Law?

Indiana currently has no universal helmet laws for motorcyclists.

Indiana’s helmet law only pertains to minors. According to Indiana Code IC § 9-19-7-1, an individual who is younger than 18 years old who is operating or riding as a passenger on a motorcycle is required to:

  1. Wear a helmet that meets federal safety standards; and
  2. Wear protective glasses, goggles, or a transparent face shield.

Indiana did have a universal helmet law, but it was repealed in 1976. 


Why Did Indiana Repeal the Universal Helmet Law?

Indiana’s advocacy organization, ABATE of Indiana, Inc., was started on June 25, 1975. ABATE stands for American Bikers Aimed Toward Education. The organization’s mission is to defend motorcyclists’ rights. 

The organization was influential in repealing the universal helmet law in 1976, allowing motorcyclists the freedom to choose helmet use. ABATE believes that safety should be attained through educating motorcyclists, not through legislation.

In 1986, the Indiana Department of Education became involved with ABATE, which further helped to decrease the number of motorcycle accident fatalities.


Why Should You Wear a Motorcycle Helmet?

Although it is difficult to match the thrill of being on the open road, motorcyclists are vulnerable to injuries. Unlike a car which is enclosed, a motorcycle is wide open to outside hazards. Due to this lack of protection, when motorcyclists are hit, they are more likely to suffer serious and often life-threatening injuries, especially due to head trauma. 

One of the most common types of head injuries that motorcyclists sustain are traumatic brain injuries (TBI). A TBI is often the result of a sudden, violent blow to the head. The impact of the blow can cause brain damage. The brain can also begin to swell and expand inside the skull, resulting in further complications.

Helmet Laws

Wearing a motorcycle helmet can save your life. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), wearing a motorcycle helmet decreases your chances of a head injury by 69%.

Research has shown that helmets are 37% effective for riders and 41% effective for passengers in preventing death. In addition to saving your life, wearing a helmet can reduce the severity of injuries and get you back on your feet sooner.


Causes of Motorcycle Accidents

Below are some common causes of motorcycle accidents:

  • Other drivers turning into the path of the motorcycle: the fact is, other drivers may misjudge a motorcyclist’s distance or speed and may make a turn crossing into the motorcyclist’s pathway.
  • Inclement weather: motorcyclists must be more cautious when driving in poor conditions since their bikes do not have the same traction that a car would in the same situation.
  • Distracted driving: another driver may not be giving their full attention to the road, causing them to hit a motorcycle.
  • Limited visibility: other drivers on the road may lack the visibility needed to avoid hitting a motorcycle. Limited visibility may be caused by inclement weather or driving at night.
  • Uneducated drivers: other drivers do not realize that motorcycles function differently than cars. If a motorcyclist is downshifting, his or her brake lights will not come on. Another driver may not realize that the motorcycle is slowing down and may hit the bike from behind.


Legal Remedies Available 

There are two main categories of damages you may recover from liable drivers and their insurance companies: special and general damages.

Special, or economic damages, are those losses that have an upfront monetary value:

  • Lost wages
  • Lost earning capacity
  • Past and future medical expenses
  • Long-term care
  • Rehabilitative equipment

General, or noneconomic damages, are those losses that affect your quality of life but are not as easily quantifiable:

  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of consortium
  • Mental anguish
  • Disfigurement

Based on your injuries, an Indianapolis motorcycle accident lawyer can help you discern which legal remedies are available to you. 


Additional Motorcycle Laws in Indiana

Besides helmet protection required for motorcycle riders and passengers under the age of 18, Indiana does have other laws in place to mitigate motorcycle accidents:

  • Riders must operate the motorcycle with one leg on each side of the seat (astride the seat)
  • Passengers must ride with a proper passenger seat
  • Headlamps: motorcyclists must illuminate headlamps while operating their vehicles
  • Packages: motorcyclists cannot carry a package in hand while riding
  • Lane-splitting: Indiana Code (IC § 9-21-10-6) states that motorcyclists are prohibited from lane-splitting. Lane-splitting is where a motorcyclist rides between two cars in separate lanes to get ahead in traffic. 

Some riders may see this list as restrictive, but the state of Indiana wants to make sure that all riders are as safe as possible. In taking the proper precautions, riders can ensure not only a safe but enjoyable ride.


Speak with an Indianapolis Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Today

A motorcycle accident can leave you with devastating injuries. Even if you take all the proper precautions on the road, you can still get hit. 

At Blackburn Romey, we understand that no amount of money can give you back the life you once had. Even so, you deserve compensation that can assist you in your recovery. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.

Tom Blackburn

Blackburn Romey founding partner Tom Blackburn graduated with honors receiving a degree from Indiana University at the Robert H. McKinney School of Law. Initiating his legal career in 1977, he has been active in practicing law and currently serves as a member of the Indiana State Bar Association on the Ethics and Advertising Committees, the American Bar Association, the American Association for Justice, as a board member at the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association, and as an appointed member of the Executive Committee for the State of Indiana for the National Trial Lawyers Association.

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