Tennessee Motorcycle Helmet Law
Title 55. Motor and Other Vehicles. Chapter 9. Equipment — Lighting Regulations. Part 3–Required Equipment on Motorcycles and Motor Driven Cycles. Section 55-9-302. Crash Helmet Required For Driver and Passenger. :“(a) The driver of a motorcycle, motorized bicycle as defined in chapter 8 of this title, or motor-driven cycle and any passenger thereon shall be required to wear a crash helmet of a type approved by the commissioner of safety.”
” 55-9-306. Violation of this part – Penalty.- A violation of this part is a Class C misdemeanor.[Acts 1967, ch.45,ss(TCA (supp), ss 50-947; T.C.A., ss 59-938; Acts 1989, ch. 591, ss 113.]Cross References. Penalty for Class C misdemeanor, ss 40-35-111″This prescribed penalty seems to be for non-moving violations such as seat, windshield, mirror, footrests etc. requirements including helmets. It’s up to a $161 fine AND 30 days in jail.
Title 55. Motor and Other Vehicles. Chapter 9. Equipment — Lighting Regulations. Part 3–Required Equipment on Motorcycles and Motor Driven Cycles. Section 55-9-302. Crash Helmet Required For Driver and Passenger. :“. . . of a type approved by the commissioner of safety.”NOTE: We are in the process of obtaining the standards adopted by the commissioner of safety for determining what constitutes a “crash helmet” within the State of Tennessee. When we have the criteria for “approval”, you will find it here.
“This section is not an invalid exercise of the state police power, since the police power may be exercised by the enactment of prohibitory or restrictive measures directed to the end of fostering the public welfare by securing the safety of an individual as a class member.” Arutanoff v. Metropolitan Gov’t, 223 Tenn. 535, 448 S.W.2d 408 (1969).”This section does not unconstitutionally invade the right of privacy because the regulated right is not one exercised in private where it cannot affect the public.” Arutanoff v. Metropolitan Gov’t, 223 Tenn. 535, 448 S.W.2d 408 (1969).
“This section is not void as an unreasonable classification in violation of the equal protection clause of the United States Constitution or Tenn. Const., art. XI, Section 8.” Arutanoff v. Metropolitan Gov’t, 223 Tenn. 535, 448 S.W.2d 408 (1969).
“This section does not violate the due process clause of the U.S. Const., amend. 14 or the law of the Land Section of the Tenn. Const., art. I, s 8, by failing to set legislative standards for the design of the helmet to be worn, since the legislative designation of the helmet as a “crash helmet” is adequate notice of the legislative intention that the helmet must be headgear designed to increase materially the safety factor in case of a crash.” Arutanoff v. Metropolitan Gov’t, 223 Tenn. 535, 448 S.W.2d 408 (1969).
CURRENT ACTIVITY: (supplied by Wayne Shaub 7/24/03):
HB952/SB861 – “Helmet Modification Bill” – is now on the House Budget Sub-committee’s next calendar (the Legislature is in recess until January 2004). This bill passed the House Safety Sub-committee, the full House Transportation Committee and the full Senate Transportation Committee. There is active support for this personal freedom bill on both sides of the isle.
HB1819/SB1765 – “Flashing Brake Light Bill” – A new state law allows motorcycles to use ‘flashing’ brake lights (no more than 5 seconds) before going to a solid red lamp. Effective, July 1, 2003.
HB1054/SB1200 – “Stop Light Bill” – A new state law allows motorcyclists to “proceed when it is safe to do so” through traffic signals which have ‘mal-functioning vehicle detection devices’. The legislation was intended to allow bikers to treat traffic signals with defective “ground loop” detectors as four way stops, not “run red lights” as the national press portrayed. An amendment was added which states that, if a signal does not have a defective detection device, you can not use the law as a defense. After passing both the House and Senate by a large margin the Governor signed this into law. It became effective 1 July 2003.
SJR0104 – “May = Motorcycle Awareness Month” – Passed House, Senate, signed by the Governor.
HB1899/SB1863 – “Anti-Discrimination Bill” – This bill, sponsored by the Tennessee C.O.C., died in both House and Senate subcommittees due to extreme lobbying against it.
HB1568/SB875 – “OHV Bill” Left on the desk in the House awaiting a vote.
Mar 17, 1999 – HB0050 – the House Safety Subcommittee of the House Transportation Committee killed the Helmet Modification Bill, HB0050 by voice vote.
Feb 25, 1999 – SB0047 – the Senate passed SB0047 23 to 8. As amended the bill would require ” a motorcycle helmet of a type approved by the commissioner of Safety; provided, this provision shall not apply to persons who have five (5) or more years licensure as a motorcycle operator.” Simply put, five years of motorcycle licensure, regardless of age. Get your motorcycle license at 16, ride free at 21. Get your license at 52, ride free at 57. The sponsor of the amendment, Senator James F. Kyle, Jr. (D-Memphis) wanted five years of riding experience for all riders regardless of age. “Experience not age determines one’s ability to ride safely.” The companion bill, HB0050 will now go before the Tennessee House Trans Committee next.
Feb 10, 1999 SB 0047 – The Tennessee State Senate Transportation Committee today passed SB0047 by a vote of seven (7) yes and one (1) no. The “21 and over” helmet modification bill was amended to include a provision of two (2) years of riding experience. The Bill must now go before the full Senate as well as the House Transportation Committee. This is the first time since the mandatory helmet law went into effect in 1968 that any modification bill has made it out of committee in either the Senate or House.
Feb 7, 1999 -SB 0047 – The Tennessee State Legislature currently has bills before it to modify the existing crash helmet code. This modification would exclude adult riders and passenger 21 or older from mandatory helmet usage. Senate Bill 0047 is sponsored by Senator Bobby Carter, R-Jackson. House Bill 0050 is sponsored by Rep. Paul Phelan, D-Trenton. SB0047 will go before the State Transportation Committee on Wednesday, 10 February, 1999 at 10:00. CMT/ABATE, Concerned Motorcyclists of Tennessee/ABATE, is backing this legislation. Their State Office can be contacted at (615) 907-0304, Fax (615) 907-0416, or E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you know of any current activity regarding efforts to remove or amend Tennessee’s helmet law, in the Legislature or the Courts, please e-mail that information to us so we can update this site. Thanks.