Does Georgia have a Motorcycle Helmet Law? (JAIL time for violators?)

In the Empire State of the South, or Georgia as we better know it, Helmet laws are relatively not as relaxed as in some other states.

The state of Georgia did at one point have a universal helmet law (in the 1960s), it no longer does.

Take, for example, the helmet laws in Texas–they are more relaxed. That’s why legislators in Georgia are pushing for a law change. They want laws that are similar to the ones in Texas.

So what is the Georgia Law on helmets? The helmet laws of the State of Georgia require all motorcycle operators and passengers to wear approved protective headgear. The exceptions to this rule include riders in an enclosed cab or motorized cart and operators of a 3-wheeled motorcycle strictly used for agricultural purposes. Additionally, Under Georgia’s motorcycle helmet law, all motorcycle operators and passengers must wear approved eye protection on motorcycles that do not have a windshield.

In Georgia, an approved helmet is one that has been approved by the Georgia commissioner of public safety. However, Georgia’s Department of Public Safety has stated that the U.S. Department of Transportation certification standards will apply to all helmets. Therefore USDOT certified helmets automatically become approved motorcycle helmets for use in Georgia.

What are the consequences of not wearing a motorcycle helmet? Can I go to jail?

Here’s what will happen if you ride a motorcycle in Georgia without a helmet!

1. Dealing with the law: Fine, citation and jail?

Georgia motorcyclists and passengers alike can be pulled over by cops for not wearing protective headgear. I asked a police officer, and he explained that folks who get stopped for not wearing a helmet are charged with a misdemeanor.

Charged motorcycle riders get a citation which usually ranges from $100 to $500 but in rare cases can be as high as $1000. In this police officer’s experience, no motorcycle passenger or operator had ever gone to jail for not wearing a helmet. 

Just because that doesn’t happen doesn’t mean it can’t. Since the state laws say that you could technically be sent to jail for up to a year, don’t try your luck, folks! Jail time on your record means a lifetime of weight!

2. Health: Dealing with Injury

The latest statistics from the Georgia Department of Driver Services show that motorcycles represent only 2% of all registered vehicles in the state.

However, in 2019 motorcyclists constituted 11% of the total traffic fatalities, and 21% of all driver fatalities were motorcyclists.

Motorcycle accidents can be nasty and unforgiving since motorcycles lack the protection of a cabin and the shock-absorbing structure of cars and other four-wheelers. Also, motorcycles cannot be equipped with seat belts or airbags, which significantly reduce the chances of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

I have seen and known about motorcycle accident-related injuries firsthand. In my 20 years of riding, I have seen severe head injuries in riders. These, more often than not, became life-altering experiences for most. Some died because of a head injury, while some were disabled and paralyzed because of their head injury. If you ask me, I honestly feel scared 😨 to be on the road without all of my protective devices and gear, the helmet being the most important!

What’s more, your insurance company will diligently investigate any negligence on your part in the motorcycle crash. Not wearing a helmet will be tantamount to neglect, and the insurance company will have grounds to either reduce your claim or deny it! Yes, read that again!

Both my motorcycles are superbikes and weigh some 500lbs each! And both can achieve 150mph with ease. With that much weight and speed potential, it would be insane to not wear protective headgear at least! And that’s not all. It would be terribly selfish of anyone to put their life at risk. We all have someone who loves us ❤️ and waits for us to come home 🏡.

3. Financial consequences: Compensation

Being involved in an accident without a helmet could quickly go south for you financially.

A jury could determine that your injuries are not entirely the fault of the other party and that by not wearing a helmet, some of those injuries were brought on by you. As a result, the judge may reduce the overall compensation to the extent that the jury found you responsible.

Let’s say the jury decides that you are 25% responsible for your own injuries. Then the overall compensation awarded would be reduced by 25%.

But that’s not all. It becomes gravely concerning when the jury decides that you are responsible for your own injuries by more than 50%.

Suppose the jury finds you more than 50% responsible for your injuries. In that case, the judge may not award you any compensation. Just think about that for a minute — that’s you paying for all medical bills for your entire medical treatment! 😱 This is application of the comparative fault law!

Do helmet laws save lives?

Yes, they do. 🙌

States that have strict helmet laws for motorcycle drivers see helmet adoption and usage by over 90% compared with a mere ~ 60% in states that have partial helmet laws. This means that in motorcycle accident cases, states with higher helmet safety standards and requirements have reduced the number of serious injuries and fatalities! And that is what any state should be trying to achieve with helmet laws — bring down fatalities and serious injury cases.

Here are some facts from the State of Georgia’s official website. Complete stats about Motorcycle Safety in Georgia can be accessed here.

“For Georgia, motorcyclist fatalities have steadily increased in recent years. In 2017 there were 139 fatalities, 154 in 2018, 170 in 2019, and 179 in 2020. From 2017 to 2019, motorcyclist fatalities increased by 22%.

In 2019, there were 3,948 motorcycle crashes statewide and a total of 4,269 motorcyclists involved in crashes. The fact sheet found that for every 100,000 registered motorcycles, there were 1,941.5 motorcycle crashes. The Atlanta region accounted for 42% of motorcycle crashes, with findings that indicate metro Atlanta has a higher rate of crashes compared to rural counties. The top counties with the highest number of motorcyclist fatalities and serious injuries were Fulton, DeKalb, Gwinnett, Cobb, and Bibb.”

State of Georgia, United States

Do you have to wear a helmet while driving a slingshot in Georgia?

Motor Trikes without an enclosed cab, such as the Polaris slingshot, are considered a motorcycle under Georgia Motorcycle Laws. And therefore fall under the Georgia Helmet Law and require the operator and its occupants to wear USDOT approved helmets.

How do I know if my motorcycle helmet is approved for use in the state of Georgia?

Georgia has deferred the determination of safety and quality standards of helmets for use on motorcycles to the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT).

Any helmet approved by the USDOT carries a DOT sticker on the back of the helmet. If it’s not a sticker, the approval from DOT could be in paint as a symbol.

Here’s what the sticker looks like.

DOT Sticker on the back of a helmet

If your helmet is not DOT approved make sure to get one. Don’t fake it by sticking an aftermarket DOT sticker to it like lots of people do. You might fool a cop with a fake DOT sticker, but when the pedal hits the metal, and your helmet cannot provide adequate protection in the event of a motorcycle crash, you might pay with your life. Think about that! Get the right helmet!

I use Bell and AGV Helmets. They have excellent reputations and are always DOT approved. Bell, HJC, Shoe, Arai, and AGV are some of the best helmet makers in the world and sell many DOT approved helmets here in the United States. Many of these makers are regularly part of the MotoGP and WSBK scene as well.

Conclusion: It’s not just about doing the bare minimum. It’s a lifestyle!

Even if the state helmet law was completely relaxed, one should wear a helmet whenever riding a motorcycle. It’s never a good idea to not wear a helmet.

As mature, responsible citizens, we shouldn’t have to be schooled or corralled into the right path — we need to do things right even when it is not backed by punitive legislation. That’s what makes an honorable person — a person who is committed to doing right even when no one is looking or even when he can go scot-free by doing the wrong.

And don’t just stop at embracing the helmet but be a fully responsible motorcycle owner — get a good riding jacket, gloves, boots, and pants, and ride with care so that you avoid all sorts of traffic violations.

Lady rider in a black protective riding suit and holding a helmet in her right hand
Lady rider in a black protective riding suit and holding a helmet in her right hand

Make helmet use a mandatory feature of all of your rides. Follow the Georgia motorcycle helmet law and also other traffic laws or your state laws where you are my fellow brother and sister!

You owe it to yourself and your loved ones! ✌️

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