Many studies have proven the importance and efficacy of wearing a helmet. Helmets can drastically decrease the risk of a severe head or brain injury in a motorcycle or bicycle accident. For this reason, many states have passed helmet laws requiring citizens to don protective headgear while operating certain vehicles. New Mexico is one of these states.
Motorcycle Helmet Laws
All motorcycle riders under 18 must wear helmets. These helmets must meet or exceed federal safety regulations under the Department of Transportation (DOT). Once a motorcyclist turns 18, he or she legally no longer has to wear a helmet. New Mexico replaced its universal helmet law requiring all riders to wear helmets in 1977. Continuing to wear a helmet even after turning 18, however, could prevent a fatal injury in an accident. Any motorcyclist that does not have a windshield or windscreen must also wear protective goggles.
Bicycle Helmet Laws
It is mandatory for any child or teen under the age of 18 to wear a helmet while bicycling, according to the Child Helmet Safety Act. This act, effective July 1st, 2007, mandates the use of DOT-approved helmets for all children riding bicycles, tricycles, scooters, skates and skateboards. A similar bill also requires minors to wear helmets while using off-road vehicles, snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles. New Mexico is the only state to require minors to use helmets on all recreational vehicles.
Moped Helmet Laws
Mopeds are two- or three-wheeled vehicles with automatic transmissions and motors with less than 50 ccs of piston displacement, according to New Mexico law. Riders cannot take mopeds on New Mexico freeways that do not permit bicycles. The helmet law is the same for moped riders as it is for motorcyclists: those under 18 must wear DOT-approved helmets. This law applies to moped operators and passengers.
Electric Scooter Helmets
Like most states, New Mexico has welcomed electric scooters, or e-scooters, with caution. New Mexico has specific rules citizens must obey when riding rentable e-scooters. Riders must operate e-scooters on bicycle lanes or the road, not on sidewalks. They must follow all the same traffic laws as other drivers. They must also wear helmets if they are under the age of 18. The law states that anyone who rents scooters, bicycles, skates or skateboards must provide helmets to minors in New Mexico.
What Are the Penalties for Failing to Wear a Helmet?
Wearing a helmet is the smart thing to do as a motorcyclist or bicyclist in New Mexico. Even if you lawfully do not need to wear one, doing so could help you avoid a serious or fatal injury. In a motorcycle accident, wearing a helmet reduces the odds of dying by 37%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It reduces the risk of a serious head or brain injury by 69%. Not wearing a helmet could contribute to traumatic injuries to the face, head, neck and brain.
Failure to wear a helmet in New Mexico when the law requires it could also lead to legal repercussions. Underage motorcyclists and bicyclists who do not wear DOT-approved helmets could receive traffic tickets and fines. The fines can increase for second and subsequent helmet-related offenses. Failure to wear a helmet will not, however, lead to comparative liability for related injuries in New Mexico.
The state’s motorcycle helmet law explicitly states that failure to wear a helmet shall not qualify as contributory negligence, even if the law required the cyclist to do so. A defendant in a crash claim, therefore, could not use the lack of helmet-wearing against a victim to prove comparative negligence. Comparative negligence could reduce the plaintiff’s injury award by his or her percentage of fault for the collision. New Mexico’s helmet law protects motorcyclists and bicyclists from comparative fault if they fail to wear helmets in an accident – even if doing so reasonably would have prevented the injuries in question.
If you or a loved one were a victim in a motorcycle accident or bicycle collision, our personal injury lawyers in Albuquerque can help. Contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.