In 2016, 860 bicyclists in the U.S. died in traffic accidents. Twenty-nine of these victims were in Georgia. The single most effective way to prevent a fatal head injury in a bicycle collision is to wear a helmet. Although helmets can’t guarantee safety, they drastically reduce a bicyclist’s risk of sustaining a life-threatening head or brain injury in an accident. It’s important to learn the helmet laws in Georgia, but more important to always protect yourself with a properly fitted bike helmet regardless of what the law in your state says.
Do Bicyclists Have to Wear Helmets in Georgia?
Georgia Code Section 40-6-296(e)(1) states that “no person under the age of 16 shall operate or ride as passenger on a bicycle in the state without wearing a bicycle helmet.” The statute goes on to define “bicycle helmet” as protective headgear that meets or exceeds the federal safety and performance standards under the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) or Snell Foundation. There is no statewide law mandating that bicyclists over the age of 16 must wear helmets.
For a bicycle helmet to comply with the state law, the rider must wear it “fastened securely on the head with straps.” It is against the law to rent or lease a bicycle to someone under the age of 16 unless that person has a bicycle helmet at the time of the rent or lease. It is a parent or legal guardian’s responsibility to make sure children under 16 wear proper helmets at all times while bike-riding on Georgia’s sidewalks, roads, or bike paths. Otherwise, parents could face fines.
Other required equipment to legally ride a bicycle in Georgia includes a headlamp with a white light visible from at least 300 feet and a red rear reflector visible from 300 feet to the rear (if riding after sunset). Bicyclists must also have working brakes that enable the bicycle to skid on dry, level pavement. Bikers cannot modify their bicycles to make the handlebar elevation higher than the operator’s shoulders, or to make the pedals more than 12 inches off the ground.
Should You Wear a Bicycle Helmet?
It might not be against the law to bike without a helmet in Georgia as an adult, but it is against your best interests as a bicyclist. Bicycle helmets can significantly reduce a bicyclist’s risk of serious injuries to the face, head, and brain in the event of a car accident. The bike helmet can absorb most of the impact instead of it passing directly to the skull. You may be able to avoid a skull fracture, head injury, chipped or lost tooth, facial injuries, contusion, hematoma (bleeding in the brain), and traumatic brain injury with a helmet.
If your child refuses to wear a bicycle helmet, find out why. If the helmet is uncomfortable, it may not fit correctly. A child that doesn’t want to wear a helmet because it isn’t “cool” may feel better if he/she can choose the helmet. Don’t let your child ride without proper protective headgear. Not only is it breaking the law if he/she is under 16, but it could be dangerous if your child falls off the bike. About 50% of bicyclist injuries that require emergency medical care happen to children.
Other Bicycle Safety Tips
Wearing a bicycle helmet can protect you in an accident, but it’s always better to prevent an accident to begin with. Do your part to avoid a collision by following the rules, staying on the correct side of the road, signaling your intent to turn, obeying all traffic signs and signals, and yielding the right-of-way to motor vehicles when applicable. Never bike while intoxicated. This is dangerous to you and others, as well as illegal in the state of Georgia. If you do get into a bicycle accident – with or without a helmet – contact our Gwinnett County injury attorney to discuss your legal options.