The law in California does not require people over 18 to wear a helmet while cycling. However, it would be in your best interest to start using a helmet because they prevent serious injuries and may even protect you from liability.
What the law does not say
Helmets are mandatory for minors, but there is no such obligation for adults. However, if someone hits you while riding without a helmet, you may be held liable for your injuries even when you are not at fault. The insurance company may argue that it was your responsibility to wear a helmet, and that you could have mitigated your damages had you done so. This could potentially lower any recovery you are awarded.
A helmet can also prevent serious head injuries. Around 596,972 cyclists went to the emergency room with a traumatic brain injury from 2009 to 2018. Blows to the head are not only common, but they can be deceiving as well. You may initially think that a hit to the head is insignificant. Still, you could have a concussion or another brain injury without immediately showing symptoms. If you wear a helmet, you might avoid unnecessary hospital visits or the life-changing effects of a serious injury.
The right helmet
Not all helmets on the market are adequate to protect you from accidents. To ensure that you have a good helmet, you need to check if it meets the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) standards. The CPSC tests helmets to make sure they:
- Do not block the rider’s vision
- Do not come off when the rider falls
- Do not break when they hit a hard surface
- Do not have loose straps
If the CPSC finds that a helmet is safe, they will label it with a CPSC certification. You can find this label on the inside or exterior of the helmet or attached to the chinstrap.
Even experienced riders have accidents, and sometimes these are unavoidable. But wearing a helmet is an effective way to protect yourself both physically and legally.