Maryland Motorcycle Helmet Law

Mandatory Motorcycle Helmet Law
Maryland Motorcycle Helmet Law


Title 21. Motor Vehicles — Rules of the Road. Subtitle 13. Operation of Motorcycles. Section 21-1306. Equipment for Riders. . . . (b) Required headgear. :“An individual may not operate or ride on a motorcycle unless the individual is wearing protective headgear that meets the standards established by the Administrator. . . .”


Maryland Transportation Article Section 27-101(b) provides a fine of up to $500 for a person found guilty of misdemeanor under the Article including a violation of Section 21-1306(b).

This is cited in the February 1998 Court of Appeals decision in Ferro v. Lewis, 384 Md. 593, 705 A.2d 311 (1998), the case of Mike Lewis argued by Terry Nolan and Bruce Bereano in December 1997. The Court held that the Maryland motorcycle helmet law was not void for vagueness, reversed the judgement of the Circuit Court, and remanded the case for a declaratory judgement in conformance with the opinion, and ordered Lewis to pay the costs of the appeal. Bottom line: Lewis lost.

In Maryland, all moving traffic offenses are criminal. This includes seat belt violations. Even parking tickets have advice printed on them regarding the criminal nature of the charge. Maryland considers all occasions where courts can deprive you of your freedom or property for an offense against the state are properly criminal. In civil cases in Maryland, individuals must ask the courts to enforce rulings, courts do not take enforcement action on their own initiative.[Thanks to Bruce Robinson for the above information]


Title 21. Motor Vehicles — Rules of the Road. Subtitle 13. Operation of Motorcycles. Section 21-1306. Equipment for Riders. . . . (d) Approval of Protective Devices by Administrator. :“The Administrator:”(1) May approve or disapprove protective headgear and eye-protective devices required by this section;

“(2) May adopt and enforce regulations establishing standards and specifications for the approval of protective headgear and eye-protective devices; and

“(3) Shall publish lists of all protective headgear and eye-protective devices that he approves, by name and type.”


We have been unable to uncover any court decision from a court of record, either from the Maryland Appellate or Supreme Courts, which indicates that the question of whether or not Maryland’s helmet law is constitutional has not been addressed in the higher courts. (Mike Lewis has been doing some real interesting stuff in the Maryland traffic courts.)We did, however, stumble across a Maryland Attorney General’s opinion that has some interesting insights available through it. To wit:

“Where Baltimore City, acting under its police power, enacted its own mandatory motorcycle helmet and goggle ordinance in 1968, and that ordinance conflicts with this section, this section takes precedence over the ordinance.” 65 Op. Att’y Gen. 483 (1980).

For the same reason that each city within a State cannot adopt its own helmet law regulations, each State within the United States is obliged to confine themselves to the standards offered by the U.S. Department of transportation throughout NHTSA. Therein lies the dilemma for states that want to enact helmet laws. It can’t be done, at least not without violating the U.S. Constitution.


Maryland Statistics 1985 – 2000 – Instead of a decrease in death’s, there has been a 1.04% increase in the Death to Accident Ratio (DAR) since Maryland’s 1992 Helmet Law.

Mar 9, 1999 – Senate voted down SB239: 20-27. Senators voting yes were: Astle, Baker, Colburn, DeGrange, Della, Dyson, Exum, Ferguson, Hafer, Haines, Harris, Hooper, Jacobs, Madden, Mitchell, Mooney, Munson, Sfikas, Stolzfus, Stone.

Mar 5, 1999 – SB239 Maryland’s helmet law amendment cleared their Senate Judiciary Committee today on a 7-3 vote. We still have a battle in front of us, but we have a tremendous victory on this first vote. We are fortunate that we overcame some opposition from big and powerful foes. One of those who provided written testimony against us was GEICO, stating that, “some rights are not worth having.” We, in Maryland beg to differ. Our right to decide is paramount!

A NHTSA rep testified against SB 239 and provided written testimony. It appears that they violated the provision in ISTEA federal legislation that curtails their lobbying efforts and restricts them from supporting or opposing a particular piece of local legislation. More on that as it develops…

We are on our way to a vote in the full Senate. The full Senate hearing should be on Tuesday, March 8. If this schedule changes, I will post the new schedule. The 7-3 vote is better than we expected and we are excited about the next step.

SB239 Analysis: We were successful in this vote in spite of testimony from GEICO, NHTSA, the Maryland MVA, several police agencies, Maryland Shock Trauma, a pediatrics organization, Med Chi, the Baltimore Mayor’s Office, and the Maryland Dept of Health and Hygiene. There were two primary components to this win 1) a lot of time and preparation on the part of our membership. Members in each chapter kept in constant touch with their local legislators and encouraged them to support our position. 2) We are also fortunate that the Judicial Proceedings Committee is considered one of the most conservative in Maryland. In addition to this many of our bill sponsors are well respected members of the Senate. There was no single aspect to winning this vote. A lot of time and hard work paid off.

Kathleen Loerich, Legislative Rep, ABATE of Maryland.

Feb 23, 1999 – GEICO testifies against SB 239 at Senate hearing.

Feb 23, 1999 – SB 239 – An “18 and over” helmet modification bill sponsored by Senator Hafer and co-sponsored by Senators Haines, Mooney, Astle, Stoltzfus, Colburn, and Munson. MD did not file a house companion bill this year because the changes in the CGM committee were so extreme that we could not predict the outcome of a house bill. They are depending on the Senate Bill as the primary means for modification this year.

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


Maryland Helmet Law Unconstitutional? Thanks to Mike Lewis & Terry Nolan, MD may be the next to fall…