Does Tennessee have a helmet law for motorcyclists and passengers?
Yes, and Tennessee is one of many states that have passed a so-called “universal” helmet law, which says that anyone riding on a motorcycle -- whether as an operator or passenger, and regardless of age or riding experience -- must wear a proper helmet.
Tennessee’s motorcycle helmet law is codified at Tennessee Code Annotated section 55-9-302. This statute says that a motorcycle helmet must comply with federal safety regulations set out at 49 C.F.R. 571.218, but certain variations in terms of helmet features are allowed for motorcycle riders and passengers who are over 21 years of age.
Violation of the state’s helmet law is classified as a “Class C misdemeanor” in Tennessee, meaning that the offense is punishable by a maximum of thirty days in jail or a $50 fine, or both.
For more details on motorcycle safety regulations and licensing, plus tips for riders, check out the Tennessee Motorcycle Operator Manual from the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security.
Let’s say you get into a motorcycle accident in Tennessee, and you file a personal injury lawsuit against the driver you think caused the crash. But let’s add the fact that you weren’t wearing a helmet, and now you’re seeking compensation for head injuries. In that situation, a Tennessee civil jury could decide that your failure to wear a helmet amounted to negligence, and that you share some level of blame for your injuries. As a result, any compensation you receive will be reduced by a percentage equal to your share of fault. Learn more about Tennessee’s shared fault rules and other laws in our Tennessee Car Accident Laws article.