Does Rhode Island require motorcycle riders and passengers to wear a helmet?
Rhode Island has a motorcycle helmet law on the books, but it is not the "universal" type of helmet law that many states have passed. Those "universal" laws require all motorcycle operators and passengers to wear a helmet, regardless of age. In Rhode Island, only certain categories of people are required to wear a helmet while operating a motorcycle, but passengers are always required to wear a helmet when riding on the back of a motorcycle.
Here are the specific details of Rhode Island's motorcycle helmet laws:
Rhode Island Statutes section 31-10.1-4 requires that a motorcycle helmet be worn by 1) anyone who is under 21 and operating a motorcycle, regardless of their level of experience, and 2) all "new" motorcycle operators, regardless of age, for one year from the date of issuance of their Rhode Island motorcycle license.
Rhode Island Statutes section 31-10.1-6 requires all motorcycle passengers to wear a helmet, regardless of their age, and also makes it unlawful to operate a motorcycle when a passenger is not wearing a helmet.
What if you're involved in a motorcycle accident in Rhode Island while you aren't wearing a helmet? All health issues aside, your legal rights could be affected if you decide to file a personal injury lawsuit against the driver who caused the accident.
That's because if your case goes to trial, the jury could decide that your failure to wear a helmet amounted to negligence. They could make that finding even if you weren't legally required to wear a helmet, and it's a very real possibility especially if you are seeking compensation for head injuries. If the jury decides that your negligence played a part in causing your injuries, any damages award could be reduced according to Rhode Island's shared fault rules. Learn more in our article Rhode Island Car Accident Laws.
by: David Goguen, J.D.