Should Rhode Island Require Bicyclists to Wear a Helmet?

bike ridersHaving personally seen the crucial, life-saving consequences of wearing a helmet while riding a bike, Rhode Island Personal Injury Attorney David Tapalian cannot underestimate the importance of this simple, yet essential, safety measure. At Tapalian Law, we have a number of bike accident clients who wouldn’t be here today if not for the critical decision they made to put on a bike helmet. Wearing a helmet is the single, most effective way for a bike rider to reduce their risk of suffering a serious, and sometimes fatal, head injury in a bicycle accident.

A number of states, including Rhode Island, require mandatory helmets for particular age groups, but there are no statewide laws that require bicyclists of all ages to wear helmets. The National Transportation Safety Board wants to change that. The NTSB issued a recommendation this week “that all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, require that all persons wear a helmet while riding a bicycle.”  The question remains- should RI require all bicyclists to wear a helmet?

What Do We Know About Helmet Safety?

Head injuries are the leading cause of bike rider fatalities. The vast majority of those who suffer fatal injuries in a bicycle accident are not wearing a helmet. As personal injury lawyers in Rhode Island, we know the value of head protection and numerous studies show wearing a properly fitting helmet reduces the risk of head, brain, and severe brain injury by as much as 88%. Seeing the acute pain, long-term hospitalization, and extensive recovery period that a bicyclist endures when hit by a car or truck- traumatic brain injuries, broken bones, acute lacerations- we think the statistics are more than reason enough to put on a helmet.

In Rhode Island, two people were killed in bike accidents last year; two people too many. Across the country, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported 857 bicyclists killed in traffic accidents in 2018, which is the highest number of fatalities since 1990.

RI Helmet Law for Bicyclists

The Rhode Island bike helmet law requires any person under the age of 15 riding a bicycle, as an operator or passenger, to wear a protective bicycle helmet. However, as stated in R.I. Gen. Laws §31-19-2.1, “in no event shall failure to wear a helmet be considered as contributory or comparative negligence, nor shall the failure to wear a helmet be admissible as evidence in the trial of any civil action.” If you, or your child, have been hurt in a bike accident in RI or MA with or without a helmet, a skilled personal injury attorney can explain your legal rights and eligibility to a personal injury claim against the negligent driver responsible for the collision.

The bike helmet laws in Massachusetts (Mass. Gen. Laws. Ch. 85, §11B) have similar provisions except MA requires a protective bike helmet for any person riding a bike under the age of 16, whether operator or passenger.

What the Opponents Say

Though a proponent of wearing helmets, the League of American Bicyclists opposes making it a mandatory legal requirement. With the potential for violators to be fined or ticketed, the group fears a helmet law might decrease the number of people riding bikes and discourage exercise. Further, by decreasing bicyclist traffic, they feel it could have the negative effect of weakening the demand for bike share programs and safer road conditions for bicyclists, like protected bike lanes.  Others feel it takes away an individual’s right to choose and lessens the feeling of responsibility of motor vehicle drivers.

Contact a RI Personal Injury Lawyer if You Are Hurt in a Bike Accident

If you, or a loved one, were hurt in a bike accident in Rhode Island, you may be eligible to seek compensation for your injuries including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. It’s imperative you seek the expertise of an attorney experienced with Rhode Island personal injury law as soon as possible after your accident to protect your legal rights and to file a personal injury claim within the three-year (3) statute of limitations as required in RI. Tapalian Law has over 20 years of experience helping injured victims in RI and MA recover compensation after they’ve been injured in a car accident, motorcycle accident, bicycle accident, or slip and fall. Let us put our personal injury expertise to work for you too. Call our Providence office today at


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