Motorcycle riders are required by law to wear a helmet under West Virginia motorcycle helmet laws. Novelty and poor quality helmets do not suffice; the helmets must meet certain standards. As a motorcyclist, you’ll need to know what the law requires so that you can remain in accordance with it, avoid citations, and limit your liability in personal injury accidents.
More importantly, wearing a helmet can save your life. Wearing helmets reduces your risk of fatality in an accident by 37 percent, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In 2012, helmets saved 1,699 riders’ lives, the NHTSA reports. You can bet those riders can vouch for the importance of donning a helmet every time you ride.
Motorcycle Helmet Laws in West Virginia
West Virginia Code (WVC) §17C-15-44 deals specifically with the safety equipment and requirements for motorcyclists. WVC §17C-15-44(a) provides: “No person shall operate or be a passenger on any motorcycle or motor-driven cycle unless the person is wearing securely fastened on his or her head by either a neck or chin strap a protective helmet designed to deflect blows, resist penetration and spread impact forces.”
You must wear the helmet at all times when operating your motorcycle. Note, the law doesn’t only apply to motorcycles, but to all motor-driven cycles, including mopeds.
Helmet Standards in West Virginia
The next part of the aforementioned statute explains that the helmet must meet the performance specifications that have been established by one of the following three sources.
- The American National Standards Institute Standard, Z 90.1
- The United States Department of Transportation Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 218
- Snell Safety Standards for Protective Headgear for Vehicle Users
Each of the above standards is similar to the next. They each take several elements that affect a helmet’s performance into consideration when developing standards, such as how well it protects during a crash, how well the helmet stays on the rider’s head when needed, the strength of the chin strap, and how much of the head is protected beneath the helmet.
Snell 2015 Standards for Protective Headgear
To give you a basic idea of what kind of standards helmets must meet, below are a few of Snell’s motorcycle helmet standards. Snell refers to the Snell Memorial Foundation, a non-profit organization that’s exclusive purpose is to research head protection, develop standards for helmets, test helmets, and educate the public about the importance of head protection.
Helmets must meet the following standards.
- Have smooth external and internal surfaces
- Be made of a durable material that resists damage from the elements, dust, vibration, and sweat
- Be smoothed and rounded with no metallic or rigid projections on the inside of the shell
- Not have “non-essential” features, such as quick-release chin strap buckles
- Have a durable and legible label that identifies the manufacturer, the month and year of manufacture, the model and the size
Even if your helmet meets the standards, you’ll need to make sure it’s the right size for you. “Unless you take similar care in the selection and fitting of your own helmet, you may not obtain the level of protection that current headgear can provide,” Snell cautions.
What to Look for when Buying a Helmet
The NHTSA tells riders to look for the following characteristics when determining whether or not a helmet is safe.
- Thick inner lining
- Durable chin straps
- Feel substantial and weigh at least three pounds
- Shouldn’t have anything extending more than two-tenths of an inch from the surface of the helmet, e.g., no cosmetic spikes
- Should have a Department of Transportation (DOT) sticker, as well as either a Snell or American National Standards Institute (ANSI) label
For more information about the West Virginia laws for riders, stop by the Clarksburg DOT office and request literature.
Finally, check out our Clarksburg motorcycle blog for more articles of interest to riders. While we hope you never have to use it, our phone number is 304-931-4088. If you're ever in a wreck somebody else caused, call us to set up a consultation.