Many in Manassas may envy the freedom that motorcycles offer, yet few likely would want to be faced with the lack of personal protection bikers have in accidents. There is virtually nothing protecting a rider from the road should he or she be struck by (or collide with) another vehicle. That may be why many fail to understand why any motorcyclist would disagree with laws that would require him or her to wear a protective helmet. Per Virginia’s Department of Motor Vehicles, such equipment is 29 percent effective at preventing death and 67 percent effective in preventing brain injuries in motorcycle accidents. 

Virginia law does indeed require motorcyclists to wear helmets. Section 46.2-910 of the state’s Motor Vehicle Code states that both riders and passengers must wear helmets at all times while riding on a bike. The only exceptions to this rule are when they are traveling less than 15 mph or when they are participating in a motorcycle parade organized by local municipalities or the state’s Department of Transportation.

While the decision whether or not to wear a helmet (and by extension, to deal with the legal consequences if one does not) may be viewed as a personal one, the issue of liability may come up when a passenger is injured and the motorcyclist did not require him or her to wear a helmet. The state’s law says that not requiring passengers to wear a helmet does not constitute “negligence per se” in a civil case. This does not mean that one cannot try to hold a motorcyclist liable for not having his or her passengers wear helmets; rather, it simply means that when hearing such a claim, the court and/or jury members must consider whether a reasonable person would have acted the same as the defendant.