The subject of helmets has long been a polarizing one. Many helmet proponents do not appreciate the lack of an all-ages law, while others argue that the use of helmets should not be enforced.

Who must wear a helmet?

In California, any bicycle rider age 17 or under is required to wear a helmet. Any adult bicycle riders, those age 18 and over, do not have to wear one. The helmet must be “approved, properly fitted and fastened.”

These laws apply to every cyclist under 18. Unlike some states, there are no exceptions for those who have religious beliefs that would be violated by wearing a helmet.

When do you have to wear a helmet?

These rules apply to riders under 18 when they are on a bike, either operating or riding as a passenger, and when you are on a street, bike road, public bike path, trail or sidewalk. This includes those riding in a restraining seat or a trailer behind a bicycle.

These laws do not apply when you are on private property. There, you do not have to wear a helmet.

What happens if you don’t wear a helmet?

Failure to wear a helmet when legally required can result in a $25 fine. California also gives the option for a “fix-it ticket.” If you can prove to law enforcement within 120 days that you have a helmet and take a bicycle safety course, you can avoid court and the fine.

While not everyone legally must wear a helmet, it can be a big safety aid and if you do get in an accident, it may also help your case.