Unlike some other states, Texas does not mandate that all motorcyclists wear a helmet. Lawmakers have repeatedly attempted to revise our helmet laws, but have been unsuccessful. For example, two representatives filed a proposed helmet law, H.B. 748, on January 11, 2019. By the end of February 2019, the bill had died.
In this article, we’ll analyze Texas’s current motorcycle laws for both drivers and passengers and why helmets need to be worn regardless of the law.
Motorcycle Riders Face an Increased Risk of Brain Injury
Motorcycles are notoriously dangerous, and even if riders take all available safety precautions, nothing can make them completely safe from negligent drivers. Compared to someone driving a car, bikers are incredibly vulnerable. In a collision, a motorcyclist is only protected by their helmet and other protective gear, like padded jackets and gloves.
Motorcycle safety is a serious concern, not only for the drivers, but also for their passengers. Research shows that motorcycle passengers are more likely to suffer a traumatic brain injury and other head and neck injuries than the driver. Bikers and their passengers can also suffer fractures, spinal cord injuries, and soft tissue damage.
That’s why helmets are so important. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that helmets are 67% effective in preventing traumatic brain injuries. In 2017, 51% of the people in Texas who died in motorcycle crashes were not wearing a helmet.
Texas’ Motorcycle Laws: Minimal Protection for Bikers
Compared to other states, Texas has very few laws dictating who can operate or ride a motorcycle. First, drivers must complete a motorcycle safety course to receive the class M motorcycle license. Second, anyone can be a passenger on a motorcycle as long as they’re five years old. Finally, everyone who is under 21 must wear a helmet.
“Compared to someone driving a car, bikers are incredibly vulnerable.”
Drivers and passengers over 21 years of age may forego a helmet as long as the driver has a motorcycle license and a “Motorcycle Health” designation on either their insurance card or a letter from their insurance provider. You can get this simply by requesting it with any “applicable” insurance policy.
The Implications and Many Deficiencies of Texas’ Motorcycle Laws
When you analyze the requirements for driving and riding a motorcycle, there are some obvious flaws. At Crosley Law, we think Texans deserve better.
Safety Courses Don’t Guarantee You or Your Passenger’s Safety
As we mentioned before, riders can take all available safety measures and still be seriously or fatally injured by another driver. The mandated safety course and motorcycle license won’t save you from a traumatic brain injury if you are flung from your bike, but a helmet might.
RELATED VIDEO: What Is a Traumatic Brain Injury?
Children Belong in a Booster Seat
Under Texas’ booster seat law, children who are under the age of eight and shorter four feet, ten inches, must use an age-appropriate child safety seat. The Texas Department of Public Safety recommends children be in booster seats until around 10 years of age, and forward-facing car seats until they are over 4 years.
Motorcycle riders are 28 times more likely to die than car passengers. And yet, a five-year-old can legally ride on a motorcycle that affords them little to no protection.
21-Year-Olds Can Legally Ride Without a Helmet, and Can Also Legally Drink
Drinking and driving has always been a dangerous combination, and the danger only increases when the driver is operating a motorcycle. While mandating that all riders under 21 should wear a helmet is a step in the right direction, letting 21-year-olds forgo helmets is a recipe for disaster.
According to the IIHS, helmets are 37% effective in preventing deaths, and nearly half of single-vehicle motorcycle crashes involve a driver with a BAC of .08 or more. To cut back on Texas’ higher-than-average motorcycle fatality rate, helmets need to be worn by all riders, regardless of age.
Average Insurance Might be “Applicable,” But It Won’t Be Adequate to Cover Your Injuries
You may assume that if you have “applicable” insurance and qualify for a motorcycle helmet waiver, you’ll be covered in a crash. However, average insurance policies, even those with personal injury protection and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, are not going to be enough to cover a catastrophic motorcycle crash. Your crash may result in hundreds of thousands of dollars or more in medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If another driver caused your injuries, you may be entitled to compensation—but the insurance company may try to fight your claim.
RELATED CASE STUDY: Motorcyclist Receives $750K Settlement in Distracted Teen Driver Crash
Crosley Law | Representing Victims of Motorcycle Accidents and TBIs
At Crosley Law, our attorneys have experience representing victims of motorcycle accidents and those suffering from traumatic brain injuries. If you’ve been in a motorcycle crash and need help recovering compensation for your injuries, contact our team today. Call us at 210-LAW-3000 | 210-529-3000 or fill out our brief online contact form to schedule your free consultation.
Child passenger safety information. (2018). Texas Department of Public Safety. Retrieved from https://www.dps.texas.gov/director_staff/ public_information/carseat.htm
Evans, T.A., Sasor, S., Duquette, S., et al. Comparison of neurologic trauma and motorcycle helmet use in drivers vs passengers. (2018) JAMA Surgery. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/ jamasurgery/article-abstract/2661656?redirect=true
Fatality facts 2017 – Motorcycles and ATVs. (2018, December). Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Retrieved from
Motorcyclist fatalities and injuries by age group and helmet use (2017). Texas Department of Transportation. Retrieved from http://ftp.dot.state.tx.us/pub/txdot-info/trf/crash_statistics/2017/10.pdf
Motorcycle safety. (2019, May 15). National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Retrieved from https://www.nhtsa.gov/road-safety/motorcycle-safety
Texas House Bill 748 (adjourned sine die) (n.d). Legiscan. Retrieved from https://legiscan.com/TX/bill/HB748/2019
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.