Does Arkansas Have A Motorcycle Helmet Law? (Read This FIRST!)

Did you know that motorcycle riders face higher risks of injury or death than car drivers? Per NHTSA, in 2020, the fatality rate for motorcycle passengers was six times that for passenger car occupants. 

But using a proper DOT-approved helmet can go a long way toward preventing fatal injuries. 

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), helmets reduce the risk of severe head injuries by 69%. Motorcycle helmets are 37% (for riders) and 41% (for passengers) effective in preventing deaths.

Almost all U.S. states have helmet laws that dictate whether motorcycle operators have to wear (Florida for example →) helmets or not. 

The motorcycle helmet law in Arkansas makes it mandatory for all riders under 21 years of age to use protective headgear. They must also use protective glasses, eye protection, or transparent face shields.

On the other hand, for adults who are 21 and older, helmet use is not mandatory in Arkansas. 

Motorcycle helmet laws in Arkansas

Before 1966, no state had a motorcycle helmet use law, per the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration).

But things changed after the federal government enacted The Highway Safety Act of 1966. 

This federal law required states to pass universal motorcycle helmet laws to qualify for certain highway safety funds. 

So, in 1967, Arkansas became one of the first states to enact a universal motorcycle helmet law.

Till 1997, Arkansas had a universal law. So, all motorcyclists of all ages had to wear a helmet. 

On August 1, 1997, Arkansas passed a repeal of the mandatory helmet law. 

The new law required helmet use only for riders under 21 years.

So, today, per Arkansas law, all riders younger than 21 years have to wear protective headgear. It applies if they are riding motorcycles, motor-driven cycles, and motorized bicycles on all public streets and highways of this state.

Meanwhile, if you are 21 and above, it is not mandatory to use a helmet. However, all motorcycle drivers and passengers of any age must wear protective glasses, goggles, or transparent face shields.

When does the mandatory motorcycle helmet law not apply in Arkansas?

The state’s motorcycle helmet laws do not apply to three-wheel motorcycles that have a closed cabin and a windshield. The motorcycles should not exceed 20 horsepower. 

It does not apply to officers from municipal police departments using motorcycles.

What are the penalties for breaking Arkansas’ motorcycle helmet law? 

If you break Arkansas’ motorcycle helmet law, you could be charged with a misdemeanor. This currently carries penalties of $10 to $50 in fines and up to 30 days in prison.

Additionally, Arkansas also follows the modified comparative negligence rule. 

Per this rule, if you are in an accident, the compensation you get through your insurance policy depends on how much at fault you are. 

So, if the law finds that you broke the state’s helmet laws in the accident, your penalty or compensation will be high.

States that have motorcycle helmet laws similar to Arkansas

Per, 29 states in the U.S. and the U.S. territory of Guam have laws that require helmets only for specific riders. 

Apart from Arkansas, the list includes South Carolina, Rhode Island, Kentucky, North Dakota, and South Dakota. 

These states have motorcycle helmet laws similar to Arkansas. 

That is, they require helmets for operators of motorcycles under a certain age (not everyone). But the age limit and other requirements vary from state to state.

For example, in Rhode Island, Kentucky, and South Carolina, all riders who are under 21 years have to wear helmets. But in South Dakota, the state law is mandatory for those who are under 18 years.

Meanwhile, in Kentucky, motorcycle helmet laws also cover operators with an instructional permit.

States that have universal motorcycle helmet laws 

Unlike Arkansas, some states still have mandatory helmet laws. It means everyone must use helmets while riding, no matter what their age. 

In the United States, 18 states and the District of Columbia have a universal helmet law that requires helmets for all riders. They include California, West Virginia, Alabama, New Jersey, and Tennessee. 

The law can have some variations, depending on the state. For example, in Florida, riders over the age of 21 can ride without a helmet if they have proof of insurance.

Other U.S. territories, such as the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, also have a universal motorcycle helmet law.

States with no motorcycle helmet laws

Currently, only three states do not have any helmet laws, irrespective of age limits or vehicle type. They are Illinois, Iowa, and New Hampshire. This is per data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Why you should wear a motorcycle helmet

Wearing a DOT-approved (Department of Transport) motorcycle helmet is something that all motorcyclists should do. It should not matter what the motorcycle laws or legal advice in your state say. 

Wearing a helmet is not just to assess risk or compensation by insurance companies; it’s so much more. As I mentioned above, motorcycles are seen to be much more dangerous than cars. So, even if you follow all the rules of the road, it’s better not to leave things to chance.

Wearing a proper helmet helps lessen the risk of death in an accident. Whether you are the one driving or the one in the passenger seat, it is always a good idea to wear one. 

After Arkansas repealed the helmet law in 1997, studies showed an increase in the fatality rate of nonhelmeted motorcycle crashes.

2008 study also says that unhelmeted riders are three times more likely than helmeted ones to sustain traumatic brain injuries in the event of a crash.

Per NHTSA data from 2020, 57% of motorcyclists killed in 2020 were not wearing helmets in states without universal safety helmet laws. This is much higher as compared to 11% in states with universal helmet laws.


As you will read everywhere, wearing a helmet is important for motorcycle safety. And I agree with that statement.

While in Arkansas, it is not mandatory for adults above the age of 21, as you can see, there are many benefits to wearing it. After all, accidents can happen to anyone, not just young people. 

Riding a bike is always immensely fun, but I also believe that we should be responsible riders. So, as you enjoy the wind and freedom, keep yourself updated on the laws of the state. Then, you can fully enjoy your motorcycle trip without any worries.

Photo of author


Mike, the motorcycle enthusiast behind SuperBike Newbie, fell in love with superbikes during his college years. He owns a diverse range of motorcycles and offers valuable insights into motorcycling advice, maintenance, safety gear, and laws. Despite two decades of riding experience, he continues to learn and shares his knowledge on his website. Mike also has a keen interest in motorcycle club culture. While not a club member, he aspires to be one someday.

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