Disparate Cycling Safety Rules Populate State Law Books

California Personal Injury Lawyers Call For More Protection for All Cyclists

ORINDA, Calif. — While nearly every state in the Union requires at least some form of helmet use for motorcyclists, that number is far lower when it comes to bicyclists, according to the Insurance Institute of America. Twenty-one states require the use of helmets while riding a motorcycle, and an additional 27 states require some riders to wear helmets. Conversely, only 21 states plus the District of Columbia have laws regarding bicycle helmet usage.

Gillin Jacobson Ellis & Larsen (GJEL Accident Attorneys), a San Francisco Bay area firm representing plaintiffs in catastrophic injury and wrongful death cases, is calling for more protection for all cyclists on the nation’s roadways. Managing Partner Andy Gillin suggests states revisit antiquated bicycling laws and update laws that have not kept pace with higher numbers of cyclists on the nation’s roadways.

Every state requires motorcyclists to be sober while operating their vehicle; fewer than half of the states enforce cycling-under-the-influence laws. Iowa is the only state in the Union with no bicycle helmet law, no motorcycle helmet law or any law pertaining to cycling under the influence.

“All state governments need to refresh cycling safety rules and implement a cycling-under-the-influence law,” said Gillin. “California, for example, requires motorcycle helmets for all riders; bicycle helmets for riders 17-years-old and younger; and, includes a cycling under the influence law. Although California has some laws on the books, it should consider helmets for all bi-pedal vehicles.”

In August 2010 Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called for a state-wide bicycling helmet law for all ages after he shattered his elbow during a bicycling accident while wearing a helmet. In addition to this helmet law, which would replace the current 17-year-olds and younger requirement with an “all-riders-wear-helmets” law, safety proponents have suggested the mayor also implement a “three-foot passing law.”

Helmet Safety Law Statistics:

  • In 2007, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/810986.pdf reported 698 pedal cyclists were killed and 44,000 injured in traffic crashes.
  • Of 714 bike deaths in 2008, 653 (91%) were not wearing helmets, according to the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute. The number of head injuries for cyclists is much higher than any other sport, according to the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute.
  • Nearly 11,000 people are hospitalized each year for head injuries following bike accidents. Helmets have been proven to reduce the risk of head injury in children by 85 percent and brain injury by 88 percent, according to Safe Kids USA.
  • Approximately 90 percent of the population supports helmet laws for children, only 62 percent support helmet laws for adults, according to the National Survey of Bicyclist and Pedestrian Attitudes and Behavior.
    GJEL Accident Attorneys; is a San Francisco Bay area law firm representing plaintiffs in catastrophic injury and wrongful death cases. Since 1972, Gillin Jacobson Ellis & Larsen has obtained recoveries in more than 99 percent of its cases. For more information, visit www.gjel.com or email lawfirm [at] gjel [dot] com.