Motorcycle Helmet Law in New York State

New York was the first state in the nation to require all motorcyclists to wear helmets, a law which went into effect on January 1, 1967, and remains in effect today.

Let’s talk about what the law requires for New York motorcyclists.

The Motorcycle Helmet Law, found in New York’s Vehicle & Traffic Law, section 381, requires all persons riding a motorcycle in the state to wear a helmet that has been approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) under their specific guidelines. [1]

Furthermore, the law also states that anyone who operates/drives a motorcycle must wear either goggles or a face shield of a type that has been approved by the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles.

Any violation of New York’s helmet law is punishable by a $100 dollar fine, up to thirty (30) days in jail, or both.

DOT Helmet Sticker Requirements

Motorcycle Helmet showing DOT Certified sticker on outside rear - DOT Helmet StickerHelmets that have received DOT approval have a prominent sticker on the outside rear of the helmet. This DOT helmet sticker indicates that the helmet meets the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 218.

DOT-compliant helmets sold in the United States are required to include the aforementioned label which will display the manufacturer and/or brand, the model, and the words “DOT, FMVSS No. 218, CERTIFIED.” However, labels on certified helmets made before May 13, 2013 may simply read “DOT.”

The law makes it illegal to sell, offer for sale, or distribute helmets, face shields and goggles which do not meet the federal and state standards set forth in the law.

While any helmet sold in the United States must be DOT approved, there are still online and brick-and-mortar stores that sell “novelty helmets” that are not approved, and fake DOT stickers can also be purchased to put on these helmets. Motorcyclists therefore must be careful in selecting and purchasing helmets.

Click here for an NHTSA guide to buying the right helmet.

Why You Should Always Wear A Helmet

New York Motorcyclist wearing their helmet according to the laws
  • Head injury is the leading cause of death in motorcycle accidents.
  • In 2015, 1,772 motorcyclists nationwide were saved by wearing their helmets.
  • Motorcycle helmets are estimated to be 37% effective in preventing fatal injuries to motorcycle riders and 42% effective for passengers.
  • Helmets are 67% effective in preventing brain injuries in crashes; riders without helmets are three times more likely to have a brain injury as a result of a crash than helmeted riders.

Have You or a Loved One Been Injured in a Motorcycle Accident?

At Harding Mazzotti, LLP, we’ve been successfully representing motorcycle accident victims for over 25 years. Our experienced team of legal professionals will fight hard to make sure you receive the compensation you’re entitled to after an accident.

We’re here for you 24/7 at 1-800-LAW-1010. Contact us today for a free, no obligation evaluation of your case. Helping you is what we do.

[1] The only exception to the requirement to wear a helmet is when the police authorities of a city, town or village allow members of an organization which sponsors or organizes an event such as a parade or exhibition to ride without a helmet during that event. This is an extremely narrow exception that does not come up very often for most New York riders.