Monday, October 12, 2009

Illinois Law Does NOT Require Bicyclists to Wear Helmets

I have received a number of inquiries regarding whether or not Illinois law requires a bicyclist to wear a helmet. The answer is NO. In fact, there is no statute that even addresses the issue of helmets. Furthermore, there is no statewide legislation pending that would require to mandatory use of a helmet. The Insurance Institute of Highway safety has a website that breaks down the bicycle (and motorcycle) helmet laws throughout the country.

However, while there is no statewide law concerning helmets, some municipalities such as Barrington, Cicero, Inverness and Skokie require those under a certain age (16 or 17) to wear a helmet. Another exception is that bicycle messengers in Chicago must wear a safety helmet, as well as a safety vest or a brightly colored garment for the purpose of visibility.

Mandatory helmet laws are the subject of much debate. On the pro-helmet side is the argument that the state has to absorb the cost of health care for uninsured bicyclists who are injured when they are in an accident and do not have a helmet. The con-helmet side argues that mandatory laws would discourage people from riding bicycles and there is research that helmets do not actually lessen injuries.

Regardless of your position on the subject, my personal position (as a rider and a lawyer) is that wearing a helmet is a good idea. The costs of wearing a helmet (uncomfortable, unattractive) are far outweighed by the benefits (safety, protection).