REVISED March 2010
OTHER MODES OF TRANSPORTATION
|1. PURPOSE. Laws relating to the operation of certain other modes of transportation require unique handling
procedures when taking enforcement action. This chapter provides direction to officers contemplating enforcement
action against the operators of these modes of transportation.
2. MOTORCYCLE HELMET REQUIREMENTS.
(1) Section 27803 of the Vehicle Code (VC) was enacted to help reduce injuries to passengers and operators of
motorcycles, motor-driven cycles, and/or motorized bicycles (including mopeds). Section 27803 VC requires all
operators and passengers of these vehicles to wear a motorcycle safety helmet, certified by the manufacturer at the
time of sale to meet federal standards, while on a highway.
NOTE: Effective January 1,1998, Section 27803(f) VC exempts a person operating or riding in a fully enclosed three-
wheeled motor vehicle that is not less than seven feet in length and not less than four feet in width and has an unladen
weight of 900 pounds or more, if the vehicle meets or exceeds all of the requirements of the VC, the Federal Motor
Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) for motorcycles, and the rules and regulations adopted by the United States
Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration from the requirement to wear a
(2) A motorcycle safety helmet is any helmet certified by the manufacturer at the time of sale to meet FMVSS. The
specific requirements are contained in FMVSS 218 (49 CFR, Part 571). This standard requires each helmet be
labeled permanently and legibly so the label(s} can be read showing:
(a) Manufacturer's name.
(b) Model designation.
(d) Month and year of manufacture.
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(e) The symbol "DOT” should appear on the outer surface, in a color that contrasts with the helmet color, on the
bottom edge of the posterior portion of the helmet.
(3) Proper use of the safety helmet is defined in Section 27803(e) VC. The helmet shall be worn on the head with
straps fastened and be of a size that fits the wearing person's head securely, without excessive lateral or vertical
b. Policy. Enforcement of Section 27803 VC shall apply to all persons whether they are the operator of, or the
passenger on, a motorcycle, a motor-driven cycle, or a motorized bicycle operated on a highway. This includes an
operator or passenger of a three-wheel motorcycle and passengers seated in a sidecar attached to a motorcycle or
(1) As the result of several court decisions and the terms of a partially-vacated injunction placed against the
Department, it is extremely difficult to cite motorcyclists for wearing helmets not in compliance with FMVSS 218.
Therefore, officers shall not attempt to make this determination prior to or during an enforcement stop.
(2) Officers shall not cite for hard shell "beanie-type" helmets.
(3) Officers shall not seize any helmet, or purported helmet as evidence.
(4) Supervisor approval shall be obtained before citing a motorcyclist for wearing any type of head covering an officer
determines is not a motorcycle helmet
(5) A photograph of the noncompliant head covering should be obtained at the time of the stop as evidence to support
(6) Section 27803(b) VC should be used to cite the operator of a motorcycle, a motor-driven cycle, or motorized
bicycle for not wearing a safety helmet, or for allowing a passenger to ride without a motorcycle safety helmet.
NOTE: Normally, the driver should not be issued a CHP 215, Notice to Appear, for a passenger 16 years of age or
older not wearing a motorcycle safety helmet when the passenger has been issued a CHP 215 for a violation of
Section 27803(c) VC.
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(7) Section 27803(c) VC should be used to cite the passenger of a motorcycle, motor-driven cycle, or motorized
bicycle for not wearing a motorcycle safety helmet.
(8) Officers shall focus enforcement action on the following:
(a) Motorcyclists not wearing any type of head covering.
1 This violation shall not be correctable.
(b) Motorcyclists wearing a head covering which is obviously not a motorcycle helmet, such as
a styrofoam bicycle helmet, football helmet, ball cap, scarf, stocking cap, leather aviator cap, or any
variation of a fabric cap, etc.
1 This violation shall be correctable.
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|The problem arises when an officer follows a policy that conflicts with the law, such as a policy
officers were taught years ago, that a helmet violation is not a fixable violation. The law says a helmet
violation IS a fixable violation, and the law must take priority over policy when the two conflict.
|The policy changed in 2010, and in our favor. So, the above policy says a helmet is a helmet
because the manufacturer says it is a helmet by placing the symbol "DOT" on it, and a police
officer shall not try to disagree with a helmet manufacturer that a helmet is not a helmet by
giving the helmet wearer a ticket for violating VC 27803.
|BOLT of California
|Novelty helmets riskier for bikers
Monday, August 23, 2010
By ALLISON McKINNON
A month ago, a motorcyclist braked and skidded when Interstate 10 traffic suddenly stopped in front of him.
The rider's face -- unprotected by a turtle-shell helmet -- hit the concrete. He died at the scene.
Authorities can't say whether the novelty helmet was to blame for 49-year-old Jamie Dodge's death on a stretch
of freeway in Banning. But they warn of the dangers of helmets that aren't federally certified like the one worn
by the Cathedral City man.
Despite the risks, many bikers shun approved helmets because they're too heavy, block their vision or make it
harder to hear approaching vehicles. They prefer smaller, lighter helmets that don't cover the entire face and say
they should be legal. Law officers and others say these helmets should be kept off the roads and see no reason
for motorcyclists to expose themselves to greater danger by not choosing a full-face helmet.
"I always rode without a helmet until the law started," said Norman Fernandez, a biker and attorney who
practices in Riverside. "Sure, the law is there to protect you, but it comes down to freedom of choice."
When a bill mandating helmet use was introduced in California in the early 1970s, Fernandez, 47, who lives in
the High Desert near San Bernardino County, said many bikers turned to novelty helmets to bypass the law.
Today, nearly 10 percent of all helmets worn in the state are not certified by the U.S. Department of
Transportation, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. But bikers can only be cited if
their helmet has a fake department-approval sticker or if they are not wearing one at all, California Highway
Patrol Lt. Mike Soubirous said.
After officers began citing for the illegal helmets, a federal ruling said there was no way to prove that buyers
knew the gear was unsafe, he said.
"So the law is practically unenforceable," Soubirous said. "But, we often see the
negative result of the choice to ride with only a half-shell on."
Novelty helmets often resemble a military helmet and don't extend low enough to protect the face. They also
lack an inner lining and strong rivets. Safety-approved helmets -- designated by an official sticker on the back --
feature a hard outer shell, more inside lining, a face shield and a chin protector.
Though the latest National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration research shows that California has the
highest per capita rate of motorcyclists killed nationwide, that doesn't necessarily mean illegal helmets are to
blame, CHP spokeswoman Jamie Coffee said.
The data show that 560 people died as a result of motorcycle accidents in California in 2008, the most recent
statistics available. Still, statistics don't specify the type of helmet worn in each case, she said.
Loma Linda University Medical Center neurologist Dr. Sarah Uffindell said a legal helmet offers a certain level
of protection to the skull, but no helmet can protect the brain inside the skull. Injuries can still occur as the brain
reverberates back and forth inside the skull.
"We know that even if your head doesn't hit anything, rapid deceleration or acceleration can cause the different
densities in the brain to slow down at different rates," she said. "Because different tissues are slowing down at
different rates, there's only so much stretch your brain can withstand before tearing or shearing as fibers rip
apart from each other."
A biker can suffer traumatic brain injury even if there is no skull injury. But there is not enough data to say
whether more people survive injuries better with either type of helmet, Uffindell said. Still, helmets with more
insulation may help people with less severe injuries and protect them from dying, she said.
Tony Jaime, executive director of ABATE, a statewide motorcyclist advocacy group with local chapters in
Riverside, San Bernardino, Hemet and Banning, said the issue isn't the helmet but government's intrusion into
how bikers dress.
"We advocate freedom of choice," he said. "We're not discouraging people from wearing helmets, but they give
people a false sense of security. While it may not be very wise to go without one, it certainly encourages people
to get rider training."
The group has lobbied for bills that would end the helmet requirement and contended that the department's
testing standards are not very high. The group suggests that riders concentrate on maintaining their riding skills
and update them every three to five years, Jaime said.
"If you're going to ride, you're very vulnerable and unprotected anyways," Jaime said. "No, skills alone won't
prevent an accident, but we staunchly believe that rider training can better help riders avoid crashes."
Safety vs. choice
Most motorcyclists know that novelty helmets are illegal and unsafe but choose to wear them anyway, said
Hong Zhang, director of education at Snell Memorial Foundation, a Sacramento-based nonprofit organization
that independently tests helmet safety and posts the results online.
Snell certifies more than 3,500 helmets, conducting face shield, chin strap as well as nine different impact tests.
Only those helmets that pass every test will be certified, Zhang said.
While it is not illegal to sell novelty helmets, most motorcycle shops don't want the liability, said Renegade
Classics Riverside outlet store owner Cory Miller, who sells several models of novelty helmets.
Miller said he makes sure people know when they buy a uncertified helmet that they shouldn't use it as
"Bikers continually choose to wear them because they like the better hearing ability, lightweight feel and less
wind resistance," he said. "The other big part is because they can simply get away with it."
The appeal of uncertified helmets can be strong.
Biker lawyer Fernandez, a University of La Verne graduate, said he realized the value a helmet can hold when
he was a kid.
When he first rode a bicycle, at 5 years old, he fell off his bike onto the driveway. He credits the helmet for
sparing him from injury.
As an adult, he likes to choose between both types of helmets because risk goes hand-in-hand with riding a
"As a biker, it's not if you're going to go down, it's when," he said. "So I'm all for helmets, but you should be
able to do what you want."
Reach Allison McKinnon at amckinnon@PE.com