Does Vermont have a law that requires motorcycle riders and passengers to wear a helmet?
Yes, and it essentially applies to anyone riding on a motorcycle, whether as an operator or as a passenger, and regardless of the person’s age or level of riding experience. This kind of far-reaching statute is often referred to as a “universal” helmet law, because it applies to anyone who is on a motorcycle. By contrast, the motorcycle helmet laws in other states apply only to people who are under a certain age, such as 18 or 21. Some of Vermont’s neighbors in the northeast have a more limited version of a motorcycle helmet law -- including Connecticut, Maine, and New Hampshire -- while Massachusetts and New York have “universal” motorcycle helmet laws on their books.
Vermont’s motorcycle helmet law says, “A person may not operate or ride upon a motorcycle upon a highway unless he or she properly wears protective headgear” that meets federal safety regulations. You can read the full text of Vermont’s motorcycle helmet law (although there isn’t much more to it) at 23 Vermont Stat. Ann. section 1256. And for more motorcycle safety regulations and information for riders, check out theVermont Motorcycle Manual from the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles.
If you violate Vermont’s motorcycle helmet law, you may have more than a traffic citation to worry about. If you get into a motorcycle accident while you aren’t wearing a helmet, that helmet law violation could adversely affect any personal injury lawsuit you decide to file in court against the driver who caused the accident. That’s true even if it is clear that the other driver was clearly at fault.
That’s because Vermont follows a legal rule known as “comparative negligence,” which applies when the person bringing a personal injury lawsuit (the plaintiff) is also partly to blame for causing their own injuries. So, if the jury in your case decides that your failure to wear a helmet amounted to negligence, any compensation you receive will be reduced by a percentage that equals your share of fault. Learn more about this rule in the context of vehicle accident cases in our Vermont Car Accident Laws article.