Tennessee Motorcycle Helmet Laws
Riding a motorcycle is a great Tennessee pastime, but it definitely carries certain risks. Sadly, other drivers on the road often disregard the safety and rights of motorcyclists. This is why it is so important to take the necessary precautions to improve your chances of survival in the event of a serious accident.
Our knowledgeable Chattanooga motorcycle accident lawyers are often asked about helmets and how Tennessee law views their use. With this in mind, here are some important things to consider when riding a motorcycle in Tennessee.
Motorcycle Helmet Safety Standards
There is more to motorcycle safety than motorcycle helmet laws. The helmets themselves have certain standards that need to be considered. After all, not all helmets are truly fit for use. There are two major industry standards for determining the safety and effectiveness of helmets. These are the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Snell Memorial Foundation.
Federal regulations outline the details of how well a helmet should perform under rigorous testing. Testing includes:
- Impact testing
- Penetration testing
- Retention system testing (for fastening helmets to the rider’s head)
- Configuration testing
The purpose of this regulation is to make sure that helmets being sold for motorcyclist use are actually designed and manufactured to provide the level of protection that they claim to provide. After all, the typical motorcycle consumer is going to shop for a bike and helmet from a dealer. In most cases, the helmet is bought and worn with little thought as to whether it really will do the job if there is a crash.
When shopping for a helmet, make sure you ask to see the helmet’s safety rating. It should say it meets Federal DOT Standard 218 or Snell Helmet Safety Standards.
Autocycle Helmet Laws
Tennessee law is not just concerned with motorcycles. It actually applies to scooters and “autocycles.” Therefore, when we talk about “helmet laws,” we are really talking about trike helmet laws, scooter helmet laws, and any other autocycle that is operated on public roadways in the state.
Tennessee law defines an autocycle as any three-wheeled motorized vehicle that has the following:
- A steering wheel
- Seat belt
- Non-straddle seating
- Built to meet the same safety standards as motorcycles
You do not necessarily need a motorcycle license to drive an autocycle, whereas you would need one to operate a traditional “trike” or three-wheeled motorcycle. Unless the autocycle is completely enclosed (like a car), all drivers and passengers must wear helmets.
Additional Motorcycle Safety Requirements in Tennessee
Tennessee is a strict helmet state. All riders are required to wear helmets, regardless of age, experience, or type of bike. However, helmets aren’t the only safety requirement for motorcyclists in Tennessee.
- You must have a working daytime headlight at all times.
- You must have proper eyewear or a windshield.
- Lane splitting remains illegal, even though it may actually be safer in heavy traffic. The one exception is that riders can share a lane with other motorcyclists. This is actually preferable.
- You must have both a left and right mirror. Some states may only require one, so be sure to have both in place when operating in Tennessee.
- You must have a working muffler. Cutouts and customized pipes that increase volume are not allowed.
- Passengers must have an actual seat and foot pegs or foot rests. While “sissy bars” are not required, the passenger should be old enough to hold on to the rider, and passengers should be capable of maintaining sufficient control over their own body while in motion.
Protecting Yourself from Common Dangerous Scenarios
Because motorcycles do not have much protection for the rider or passenger, accidents are usually serious. Even a minor “fender bender” can prove fatal if the motorcyclist is pinned between vehicles or run over by an unobservant driver.
For these reasons, it is critical that all motorcyclists remain extra vigilant on the road. While you cannot control the negligence and distraction of others on the road, you certainly can improve your survival odds by remaining at peak alertness at all times. Situations to watch out for include:
- Be careful approaching intersections – Many serious collisions happen when drivers approach an intersection with a motorcycle and fail to see the smaller vehicle. Slow down and try to make eye contact with approaching drivers.
- Occupy your lane – Avoid riding close to the shoulder. This may embolden drivers to use your lane to pass you. While unlawful, drivers do sometimes treat motorcycles like bicycles and try to just get over a little and “buzz” by. Try your best to stick to the center or left part of your lane, so as to demonstrate your dominance in your lane. This forces drivers to leave the lane and occupy the left lane to execute a full pass.
- Ride in groups when possible – Having multiple motorcycles riding together creates a bigger footprint and makes it harder to miss you.
- Always wear a helmet – Finally, your helmet is one of the most important things you can wear to survive a crash. Many deaths can be prevented by wearing proper head protection.
Call an Experienced Motorcycle Crash Lawyer Now
Throughout the beautiful terrain of Chattanooga, we are blessed with some great riding. With temperate weather, great scenic byways, and strong motorcycle culture, there is no better place to ride in the country. So enjoy your ride safely, use your common sense, and watch out for other drivers who may be distracted or otherwise dangerous.
If you or a loved one does get hurt by a careless driver, visit The Davis Firm, LLC, today. An initial consultation with our Chattanooga accident injury lawyer is free, and we never take a fee unless we recover money for you.
You can count on our trusted Chattanooga personal injury lawyers The Davis Firm, LLC to fight for the full and fair compensation that you and your family deserve after a Tennessee motorcycle accident. Contact us today for a free consultation.