What You Need to Know About Bike Helmet Law in New York

What You Need to Know About Bike Helmet Law in New York
Calendar icon May 9, 2023

Riding a bicycle can be a great alternative to motor vehicle transportation—helping to keep you physically active, saving gas money, and reducing pollution all while allowing you to get from point A to point B in a reasonable amount of time. 

However, failure to abide by New York’s traffic and helmet laws can lead to serious accidents and injuries. If you’re a bicyclist, it’s important to understand New York’s bike helmet laws and how wearing a helmet can protect you from serious injury. 

Bicycle Safety And Helmets

According to the CDC, in the United States, nearly 1,000 cyclists die, and over 130,000 are injured every year in accidents involving bicycles on the road. Although bicyclists account for only 1% of travelers in the United States, they account for 2% of all fatalities in motor vehicle accidents. 

Although bicycle helmet laws are set in place to help protect cyclists from potentially fatal injuries, less than half of cyclists on the roads wear helmets. To reduce the risk of fatal outcomes and severe head injuries, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that everyone, regardless of age or cycling experience, should wear a helmet.

Traumatic Brain Injuries In Relation To Bicycle Accidents

Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are injuries to the brain caused by direct trauma.  They are the most common cause of death and serious disability after bicycle accidents. In fact, head injuries are involved in about 60% of bicycle-accident-related deaths and 30% of bicycle-related emergency room visits, according to the CDC. 

What Is A Traumatic Brain Injury?

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) occurs when an external force causes damage to the brain. This can happen as a result of a blow, jolt, or penetration to the head. TBIs can range from mild to severe and can have a wide variety of physical, cognitive, and emotional symptoms, including but not limited to:

  • Dizziness
  • Recurring headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of coordination
  • Disrupted sleep patterns or difficulty sleeping
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Problems with concentration

Seeking a medical evaluation after any impact on the head is highly recommended, particularly because minor head injuries can worsen over time, resulting in semi-permanent or permanent disability.

A bicycle and helmet lying in a street after an accident with a car.

Types Of Traumatic Brain Injuries From Bicycle Accidents

Bicycle accidents can result in a range of TBIs, depending on the force and impact at which the cyclist was hit. Below are some of the most common types of TBIs that can result from bicycle accidents.


Concussions are typically mild TBIs, although they can be severe and result in long-term side effects. Symptoms of a concussion may include headaches, mood swings, dizziness, and memory issues.

Skull Fractures

Skull fractures occur when part of the cranial bone breaks.  There are 4 types of skull fractures that can occur: linear, depressed, diastatic and basilar. A skull fracture is not always visible to the eye and will likely require immediate medical attention from a professional. Symptoms can include bleeding from the ears and swelling or warmth at the site of impact. 

Brain Contusions

A brain contusion is a bruise on the brain itself, resulting from blunt force trauma to the head. This is caused by inflammation after the brain hits the inside of the skull and can range from mild to severe, sometimes requiring surgery. Symptoms can include confusion, vomiting, sleepiness/drowsiness, and seizures.

Intracranial Hemorrhage

Intracranial or cerebral hemorrhage is caused when the blood vessels in the cranium break, causing a lapse in oxygen circulation. Without adequate oxygen flow, an intracranial hemorrhage can cause a person to have a stroke. 

Epidural Hematoma

An epidural hematoma is bleeding that occurs between the skull and the dura mater (the layer of tissue that protects the brain and spinal cord). This type of injury primarily affects children 2 years and younger, as the child’s brain is not yet fully developed, and the dura mater is still very close to the skull. When this occurs, the child has an increased chance of experiencing intracranial pressure.

Every person and accident is unique, and it is not always possible to identify symptoms and related injuries. Seeking medical attention after a bicycle accident is crucial, but taking steps to avoid injury in the first place could prove lifesaving.  It’s been shown that wearing a helmet while riding a bicycle can decrease the risk of head injuries and TBIs by 63% to 88% for bicyclists of all ages.

New York’s Bicycle Helmet Laws

In New York State, everyone under the age of 14 is legally required to wear a bicycle helmet when operating a bicycle or riding as a passenger.  These helmets should be safety-certified. Any child who is between the ages of 1 and 4 must wear a certified bicycle helmet while riding in a secured child safety seat. Failure to abide by the NYS bicycle law for children could result in a $50 fine to the parent.

Although there are no state laws that require anyone over the age of 14 to wear helmets legally, some counties have passed laws that require anyone riding a bicycle within county limits to wear a helmet. It is important to investigate your town ordinances or municipal regulations to ensure your compliance when riding a bicycle.  Even if you do not reside somewhere that requires adults to wear helmets, you should consider availing yourself of their protection.

How To Select A Bicycle Helmet

When shopping for a bicycle helmet for you or your child, keep these considerations in mind:

  • Look for a certification label from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
  • The helmet should fit snugly, be level, and be stable on your head. It should cover most of your forehead.
  • After you put on the helmet and before you adjust the chin strap, shake your head to see if the helmet shifts from side to side. If it does, you may need a smaller helmet. 

Contact A Bicycle Accident Attorney

If you were involved in a bicycle accident, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. Since New York is a comparative negligence state, you may be able to recover damages even if you are partially at fault for your accident. 

Any accident that results in injury, such as trauma to the head, specifically in the case of bicycle accidents, may require the assistance of a skilled bicycle accident lawyer to recover damages from the insurance company. The team of attorneys at Cellino Law has over 60 years of combined experience working with bicycle accident victims to recover the compensation they deserve. 

For a free case consultation, contact Cellino Law at 888-888-8888.

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Content checked by the personal injury attorney Ross Cellino. As a family man and a trial attorney, I pride myself on winning cases and serving the community. With over 35 years of experience, I understand the function of a jury, how juries arrive at conclusions, and the role that the jury plays in administering justice. I know how to win cases. You can find us in Manhattan, Buffalo, Melville, Rochester, Brooklyn, The Bronx, Queens and other locations throughout New York.



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