The Connecticut General Assembly
OFFICE OF LEGISLATIVE RESEARCH
October 21, 1994 94-R-0945
FROM: Susan Goranson, Associate Analyst
RE: Children's Helmets
You asked if Connecticut requires children to wear helmets while using bicycles, motorcycles, or in-line skates.
Connecticut requires children under 12 to wear helmets while bicycling and businesses renting bicycles to provide a helmet when renting a bike for use by a child under age 16, unless he already has one (PA 93-292 as amended by PA 93-286). The state requires motorcycle operators and passengers under age 18 to wear helmets, as well as people of any age operating a motorcycle with a learner's permit. There is no law that requires the use of helmets while in-line skating (rollerblading).
The law prohibits children under age 12 from operating a bicycle on roads or streets without wearing a bicycle helmet. The helmet must meet the safety standards set by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). A police officer may issue a verbal warning to the child's parents or guardian if he is riding without a helmet. A child's failure to wear a helmet (1) is not a violation or offense and (2) does not constitute contributory negligence and is not admissible evidence in any civil action.
The law requires businesses renting bicycles to provide a helmet when renting a bicycle for a child under age 16 to use, unless the child has a helmet. Failure to do so is an infraction punishable by a fine of $121. The helmet must meet the ANSI minimum standards or those established in the Snell Memorial Foundation's Standard for Protective Headgear for Use in Bicycling. A fee may be charged for renting a helmet.
The law allows the consumer protection commissioner to establish a public awareness campaign to educate people about the dangers of riding bicycles without a helmet and to promote their use.
Connecticut only requires helmet use for motorcycle operators and passengers who are under 18 years of age and people operating a motorcycle with a learner's permit (CGS §§ 14-289g and 14-40a). The helmet must meet federal standards. It must be permanently labeled with the manufacturer's name or trademark and bear the symbol "DOT" on the outer surface in letters at least 3/8 inch high in a contrasting color. It must have a suitable retention device that meets federal standards and the device must be properly fastened when operating the motorcycle. It must be of a size appropriate to the wearer's head size (Conn. Agency Regs. § 14-289g-1).
Anyone who fails to wear a helmet is guilty of an infraction and may be fined up to $90.
Federal law currently requires all states to have a full motorcycle helmet use law (i.e., helmets must be used by everyone) or face the penalty of a transfer of a portion of its federal funds under the Surface Transportation, National Highway System, and Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality programs to its highway safety grant program. Once transferred these funds can not be used for construction and must be restricted for use in public awareness, training, accident prevention, and related programs. Enclosed is an OLR report 94-R-0273 which describes the federal requirements.