Does Washington State Law Require Bicycle Helmet Use?

Currently, Washington state law does not require bicyclists to wear helmets while riding in public. That means that bicycle helmet laws are left up to individual localities on a case-by-case basis. There are 23 individual localities (cities or counties) which do have active bicycle helmet laws, in addition to all military installations throughout the state. 

Below is a table listing the Washington state localities which require bicyclists to wear a helmet in public, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT):

Locality Who Is Affected Effective Date
Aberdeen All ages 2001
Bainbridge Island All ages 2001
Bremerton All ages 2000
DuPont All ages 2008
Eatonville All ages 1996
Fircrest All ages 1995
Gig Harbor All ages 1996
Kent All ages 1999
King County All ages 1993 (Updated in 2003)
Lakewood All ages 1996
Milton All ages 1997
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
Puyallup All ages 1994
Renton All ages 1999
Spokane All ages 2004
Steilacoom All ages 1995
Tacoma All ages 1994
University Place All ages 1996
Vancouver All ages 2008
All Military Installations All ages N/A


Costs of Not Wearing a Bicycle Helmet

Just because the law doesn't require you to wear a bicycle helmet does not necessarily mean it's a good idea. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 90% of bicyclists killed in traffic collisions were not wearing helmets at the time of the incident. 

There are also financial repercussions associated with not wearing a helmet. Not only can you be ticketed for riding a bicycle without a helmet in any of the locations listed above, but the medical costs associated with being injured in a bicycle accident are much higher if you suffer an injury to your head or brain. Ambulance rides, lengthy hospital stays, and the time of recovery is much higher in situations where a person has suffered a concussion or other form of traumatic brain injury

Chris Davis
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Christopher M. Davis is principal attorney and founder of Davis Law Group, P.S. in Seattle, WA.