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Am I Legally Required To Wear a Helmet on a Bicycle in Pennsylvania?

Posted on August 21, 2022

Since bicyclists must share the road with cars in Pennsylvania, there are laws and safety rules that must be followed to keep everyone safe. However, only children under the age of 12 are legally required to wear a helmet on a bicycle.

Benefits of Bicycle Helmets

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation strongly recommends that all bicyclists wear helmets regardless of their age. Although they do not completely prevent injuries, there are studies that show bicycle helmets reduce the risk of a serious brain injury by as much as 52 percent. A study published in the journal Brain Injury analyzed 76,032 cycling injuries between 2002 and 2012 and found that 78 percent of adult cyclists and 88 percent of young riders who suffered head and neck injuries were not wearing bicycle helmets. Riders with helmets are far less likely to require brain surgery if they do suffer a traumatic brain injury (TBI), plus there is a 44 percent lower risk of death. Helmets also reduce the risk of a facial fracture by 31 percent. As a result, there is no denying their importance.

Risk Factors That Contribute to Bicycle Injuries

The most significant factors that contribute to bicycle accident-related injuries, according to various studies, include:

  • A motor vehicle being involved.
  • Failure to wear a helmet.
  • Cycling in an unsafe environment.
  • Cycling while intoxicated.
  • Being male, since male cyclists are statistically more prone to bicycle injuries.
  • Cycling in the late afternoon or early evening, or in summer.
  • Being a child between the ages of nine to 14.
  • Having a pre-existing psychiatric condition.
  • Being from an unstable family environment.
  • Competing in mountain-bike racing.

Since a cyclist’s entire body is exposed, there is a higher risk of severe injuries, especially if they are not legally required and choose not to wear a helmet.

What Equipment is Required to Ride a Bike in Pennsylvania?

Bikes must be equipped with a front lamp, as well as rear and side reflectors visible from at least 500 feet if you are riding between sunset and sunrise. It will illuminate your path and help motorists see you. Brakes are also required that will stop a bike 15 feet from an initial speed of 15 mph on level, dry pavement. Depending on your city, for instance in Philadelphia, bicyclists must equip their bicycle with a bell or an equivalent signal device.

Bicycle Safety Recommendations

  • Ride the right size bike to reduce the risk of a fall.
  • Double-check that the brakes are working before riding.
  • Always use headlights no matter the time of day.
  • Wear bright clothing.
  • Never wear headphones while riding to remain alert to vehicles and hazards around you.
  • Keep both hands on the handlebars.
  • Travel at a speed that is safe for the current road, weather, and traffic conditions.
  • Follow the rules of the road. Be sure to stop when appropriate (e.g., at stop signs or red lights) and yield to pedestrians when necessary.