Missouri’s Motorcycle Helmet Laws

Missouri is known as “The Show Me” state for a reason—with scenic routes through the Ozark Mountains, the Katy Trail, and along the St. Louis Loop—there are many exhilarating rides for motorcycle enthusiasts. But before you enjoy the open road and thrilling open-air adventure of a motorcycle ride in Missouri, you must be familiar with Missouri’s helmet laws for motorcyclists. While no helmet can prevent all injuries, according to the CDC, helmets prevent death in 37 percent of riders and 41 percent of passengers. Data suggest that between one and two thousand lives could be saved annually if all riders wore helmets.

History of Motorcycle Helmet Laws in Missouri

At one time, Missouri had a universal helmet law requiring all riders and passengers of any age to wear helmets while riding a motorcycle. This law was enacted in 1967 and repealed in 2020 in favor of more lenient helmet requirements.

Are Motorcycle Helmets Mandatory in Missouri?

Missouri is not one of the 18 states in the U.S. with mandatory universal helmet laws for all riders. Instead, Missouri’s helmet laws are more complex. Under Missouri RSMo. 302.020(2), all riders and passengers on motorcycles must wear helmets if they are under the age of 26.

The law reads as follows:

“Every person under twenty-six years of age who is operating or riding as a passenger on any motorcycle or motor-tricycle, upon any highway of this state shall wear protective headgear at all times the vehicle is in motion; except that, any person twenty-six years of age or older operating any motorcycle or motor-tricycle who has been issued an instruction permit shall wear protective headgear at all times…”  

According to this law, anyone under the age of 26 and riders of all ages with learning permits must wear a helmet while operating or riding a motorcycle. The Missouri motorcycle helmet law refers to all two-wheeled and three-wheeled motorized vehicles motorcycles under the requirements of the helmet law with the exception of electric bicycles.

Helmets should have the DOT (Department of Transportation) sticker on the back of the helmet which assures riders that the helmet meets the accepted safety standards of weighing at least three pounds with foam lining of about an inch thick. In addition, DOT-approved helmets have sturdy rivets and secure chin straps.

What If I’m Over 26 and Ride a Motorcycle in Missouri?

It’s highly recommended by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that all motorcycle riders protect themselves by wearing a DOT-approved helmet. However, since the 2020 revision of Missouri’s motorcycle helmet law, riders over the age of 26—excluding those with learner’s permits—may choose to ride a motorcycle without a helmet as long as they have health insurance.

Under Missouri RSMo. 302.026, the state requires all motorcycle riders over the age of 26 to be

“covered by a health insurance policy or other form of insurance which will provide the person with medical benefits for injuries incurred as a result of an accident while operating or riding on a motorcycle.”

The health insurance requirement helps prevent motorcycle injury victims from becoming a financial burden on the state. Insurance companies may make recovery difficult for victims of accidents. In these cases, it’s advisable to get help from a St. Louis motorcycle accident lawyer to ensure full and fair compensation for any damages incurred.

How Does Missouri Enforce the Motorcycle Helmet Law?

Failing to wear a helmet when required is a secondary offense in Missouri. This means a law enforcement officer cannot pull over a motorcyclist for not wearing a helmet but may issue a secondary citation to those under the age of 26 only after ticketing the rider for a primary offense such as speeding or failing to stop at a stop sign. Once an officer pulls over a motorcyclist for a primary offense, they may then require proof of adequate health insurance coverage if the rider is over the age of 26 and not wearing a helmet.