Currently, there is no Washington state law requiring bicyclists to wear a protective bicycle helmet. That means that the decision to set and enforce bicycle helmet laws is left up to the local cities and counties on an individual basis. King County and the city of Seattle require do bicyclists to wear helmets while riding in public.
King County first established a law requiring bicyclists of all ages to wear helmets in 1993. However, that law did not apply within city of Seattle until it was later updated in 2003. Today, all bicyclists within King County (including the city of Seattle) are required to wear a protective helmet while they are riding.
While some helmet laws throughout Washington state only apply to people of certain ages (for example, the city of Poulsbo's helmet law only applies to those under the age of 18), King County's helmet law applies to everyone who rides a bicycle.
Washington State Localities Requiring Bicycle Helmet Use
Below is a table listing all of the localities in Washington state that currently have active laws requiring helmet use among bicyclists, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT):
|Locality||Who Is Affected||Effective Date|
|Bainbridge Island||All ages||2001|
|Gig Harbor||All ages||1996|
|King County||All ages||1993 (Updated in 2003)|
|Orting||Under 17 Years Old||1997|
|Pierce County (unincorporated)||All ages||1994|
|Port Angeles||All ages||1994|
|Port Orchard||All ages||2004|
|Poulsbo||Under 18 Years Old||1995|
|University Place||All ages||1996|
|All Military Installations||All ages||N/A|
Penalty for Not Wearing a Helmet in Seattle or King County
The violation for not wearing a bicycle helmet is a civil infraction (ticket) and the base fine is $30. There are additional court costs of $51 added to the base fine amount, so the total is $81. All law enforcement officers have the authority to enforce this code -- police officers, sheriff's deputies, state patrol troopers, and so on.
In addition to the financial costs, a bicyclist's failure to wear a helmet can come at an even greater cost. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 91 percent of bicyclists who were killed in collisions in 2009 were not wearing helmets at the time of the crash. The CDC says there were approximately 800 bicyclist fatalities in 2010 and another 515,000 bicycle accident-related injuries. Overall, it is estimated that the indirect financial costs for injuries to unhelmeted bicyclists is approximately $2.3 billion each year.