Mandatory Helmet Law

New York



STATUTE:

Chapter 71 of the Consolidated Laws. Title III--Safety Responsibility; Financial Security; Inspection; Size and Weight, and Other Provisions. Article 9--Equipment of Motor Vehicles and Motorcycles. Section 381. Motorcycle Equipment. :

FINE:

Chapter 71 of the Consolidated Laws. Title III--Safety Responsibility; Financial Security; Inspection; Size and Weight, and Other Provisions. Article 9--Equipment of Motor Vehicles and Motorcycles. Section 381. Motorcycle Equipment. :

STANDARDS:

Chapter 71 of the Consolidated Laws. Title III--Safety Responsibility; Financial Security; Inspection; Size and Weight, and Other Provisions. Article 9--Equipment of Motor Vehicles and Motorcycles. Section 381. Motorcycle Equipment. :

COURT DECISIONS:

"Fact that this section requiring that motorcycle operators or riders wear protective helmets was enacted because of desire to qualify State for federal highway construction funds and that federal government thereafter eliminated requirement of a compulsory helmet law did not render this section invalid." People v. Bennett, 1977, 89 Misc.2d 382, 391 N.Y.S.2d 506.

"Subdivision 6 of this section requiring motorcycle operators to wear helmets was not unconstitutional because it delegated authority to commission of motor vehicles to adopt regulations with respect to type of helmet or specifications." People v. Newhouse, 1968, 55 Misc.2d 1064, 287 N.Y.S.2d 713.

That was in 1968. There have been several changes in the law since then that can override this outdated decision.

"This section prohibiting operating or riding motorcycle unless operator or rider wears protective helmet of type approved by commissioner was regulation of conduct which was within the scope of permissible legislative action." People v. Schmidt, 1967, 54 Misc.2d 702, 283 N.Y.S.2d 290, appeal dismissed 23 N.Y.2d 686, 295 N.Y.S.2d 936, 243 N.E.2d 153.

That was in 1968. There have been several changes in the law since then that can override this outdated decision.

"Subd. 6 of this section requiring motorcyclists to wear protective helmets is valid exercise of state's police power and is constitutional." People v. Bielmeyer, 1967, 54 Misc.2d 466, 282 N.Y.S.2d 797.

"Subdivision 6 of this section prohibiting operating or riding motorcycle unless operator or rider wears protective helmet of type approved by commissioner is too indefinite, removes from individual right to exercise his judgment or preference in use of personal adornment, and is unconstitutional." People v. Smallwood, 1967, 52 Misc.2d 1027, 277 N.Y.S.2d 429.

This basis for this decision was set aside when the New York Legislature amended the law in 1967 to require a "list of approved devices" under subsection 9 -- the list negating the "too indefinite" argument. However, with the banning of all such lists in 1988, the argument and this decision can be brought forth in the next court action.

"Wearing motorcycle helmet 'cowboy style,' i.e., sitting on back of head and resting on top of defendant's shoulders, did not constitute compliance with motorcycle helmet law, McKinney's Vehicle and Traffic law s 381, subd. 6, as purpose of requiring helmet was to protect wearer's entire head. People v. Bloomfield, 1985, 130 Misc.2d 151, 495 N.Y.S.2d 133.

We included this one because it shows that the spirit of the fight was alive and well in New York in 1985. However, it is also interesting to note that the nonsense of the purpose being to "protect wearer's entire head" is as weak as a two penny drink. Against the potential damage to the neck that was uncovered in New York over twenty-five years ago, the issue of what it is that helmets actually protect, and at what expense, is still open to debate -- in and out of court.

"Fact that many facets of human behavior adversely affect public health, welfare and safety, such as smoking, drinking and drug use, did not mean that unless all such harmful activities were dealt with by legislature, it was discriminatory for state to require that motorcycle operators and riders wear protective helmets." People v. Bennett, 1977, 89 Misc.2d 382, 391 N.Y.S.2d 506.

Mark Callahan has gone in with the right question and pulled the first written response from the DMV. Callahan's letter to the department, their reply and his second round are available by clicking here (it'll take a while to load). This is the way the challenge starts. Now, with the State of New York demonstrating that they are unprepared to provide riders with a method to comply with the law, with certainty, (those brocuhures from NHTSA do nothing). If you get a ticket for a helmet which has been certified by it's manufacturer as being in compliance with FMVSS218 (see above), take on the law over this vagueness defect.


RELATED INFORMATION:


CURRENT ACTIVITY:


RECENT ACTIVITY:

AB 589 requires motorcycle user to wear helmets that meet the federal motor vehicle safety standards and which have been impact-tested by the US Department of Transportation, the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles or by an independent laboratory approved by the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles. SB 170 exempts motorcyclist over the age of 21 from the requirement of wearing protective helmets of a type approved by the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles when operating or riding a motorcycle.

May 14, 1999 - S. 3182 - passed the Senate Trans Committee and on to the Senate Floor.

If you know of any current activity regarding efforts to remove or amend New York's helmet law, in the Legislature or the Courts, please e-mail that information to us so we can update this site. Thanks.


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-- DISCLAIMER --

The foregoing is provided as educational information only and is not legal advice.