A motorcyclist holding his helmet.

For over three decades, Nebraska mandated helmets for motorcycle riders. However, starting with January 2024, helmets are no longer compulsory for motorcyclists on the Cornhusker State’s roads. Legislative Bill 138, which included the repeal of the helmet mandate, passed with a unanimous 41-0 vote in the Nebraska Legislature on May 31 and was signed into law the same day.

What Are the New Motorcycle Helmet Law Changes?

Starting January 1, 2024, individuals are permitted to ride without a helmet in the state of Nebraska if they fulfill the following conditions:

  • They are 21 years of age or older;
  • They wear eye protection while riding;
  • They have completed a Basic Motorcycle Safety Course. Any of the following courses will fulfill the criteria for the “Basic Motorcycle Safety Course” as stipulated in this new statute:
    • Basic Rider Course (BRC)
    • Basic Rider Course 2 (BRC2)
    • Returning Rider Basic Rider Course (RRBRC)

How Does This Law Change Impact Riders’ Safety

The repeal of Nebraska’s motorcycle helmet law marks a significant shift in the regulations governing motorcycle safety in the state. While some riders may welcome the newfound freedom to ride without a helmet, there are concerns about how this change will impact rider safety.

Obviously, the requirement for riders to be 21 years of age or older and to have completed a Basic Motorcycle Safety Course aims to mitigate some of the risks associated with riding without a helmet. These prerequisites imply a level of experience and training that could potentially improve rider awareness and skill on the road.

However, the removal of the helmet mandate also introduces new safety challenges. Helmets are crucial protective gear that can significantly reduce the severity of head injuries in the event of an accident. Without this mandatory safety measure, riders are inherently more vulnerable to head trauma, which can lead to catastrophic consequences.

The law does mandate eye protection, but wearing fancy goggles does not offer the same level of safeguarding as a helmet. Surely, eye protection can prevent debris and insects from impairing the rider’s vision, but when your non-protected head meets the unforgiving asphalt, injuries are typically catastrophic.

A Few Relevant Statistics

As per the 2016 Nebraska Helmet Use Observation Report, nearly all motorcyclists, at 99.7%, were observed wearing helmets; however, 10.3% of those helmets were deemed illegal. Nebraska shows (well, at least it used to) a higher rate of helmet usage compared to states with either no helmet laws or laws that are partial or limited to specific age groups, such as those under 21 years old. In 2016, motorcycle accidents resulted in the deaths of 20 individuals and injuries to roughly 500 others. Among those who wore helmets, fatalities accounted for 3%, while among those who did not wear helmets, fatalities were twice as high at 6%.

Moreover, according to findings by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motorcycle helmets have proven to be 37% effective in reducing the likelihood of death and 65% effective in mitigating brain injuries during a crash. Regrettably, in 1995, Congress removed federal sanctions against states lacking helmet laws, leading to the subsequent repeal or weakening of several primary motorcycle helmet laws. Enhanced helmet usage across the United States could potentially save more lives and prevent numerous catastrophic injuries.

In the end, it remains to be seen how this change will impact rider safety in Nebraska, emphasizing the need for continued monitoring and evaluation of its effects on road safety.

Injuries That Can Occur Due to Not Wearing a Motorcycle Helmet

Riding a motorcycle without a helmet poses significant risks, leaving riders vulnerable to various injuries in the event of an accident. Here are some of the injuries that can occur due to the lack of proper head protection:

  • Head injuries, such as concussions and traumatic brain injuries; these can lead to disabilities or fatalities.
  • Facial injuries, including lacerations, fractures, and dental trauma
  • Eye injuries from debris, wind exposure, and insects – even though the new law requires riders to wear eye protection, a closed helmet can still provide superlative eye protection in comparison to motorcycle goggles, especially in case of an accident. 
  • Neck injuries from sudden impacts – cervical fractures and ligamentous injuries occur twice as often in unhelmeted riders than in riders who wear headgear.
  • Spinal cord injuries, potentially causing paralysis or permanent disability have a higher incidence as well for helmetless riders.

Following a motorcycle accident, head injuries can vary in severity, ranging from mild to moderate or severe, depending on various factors. Mild head injuries may necessitate only medication and rest for recovery. However, more severe cases may demand treatments such as surgery, physical therapy, and cognitive rehabilitation, which could extend over weeks, months, or even years. In instances of severe traumatic brain injury (TBI), some individuals may never regain their previous level of function.

Nebraska’s Motorcycle Helmet Law Repeal and Its Impact on Compensation

Nebraska’s repeal of its strict motorcycle helmet law may have significant implications for compensation in the event of accidents. With the increased likelihood of severe injuries, resulting from riding helmetless, compensation claims could rise in both frequency and magnitude. For example, severe TBIs often require extensive medical treatment, rehabilitation, and ongoing care, leading to higher medical expenses and loss of income. Consequently, insurance companies and legal professionals may see an uptick in claims related to motorcycle accidents, highlighting the importance of comprehensive coverage and legal representation for affected individuals seeking compensation.

Defending Nebraska’s Riders: Our Mission for Motorcycle Safety

At Hauptman, O’Brien, Wolf & Lathrop, we advocate for motorcycle safety and urge all riders to prioritize wearing helmets. That’s because safety beats looking cool any day. Protecting yourself with proper headgear significantly reduces the risk of serious injuries and can make a crucial difference in the event of an accident. Your safety is our priority, and we’re here to support responsible riding habits.

A motorcycle collision has the potential to alter your life significantly and exert a profound influence on your family. If another party is responsible for the accident, you shouldn’t be left alone to shoulder the financial burden of severe injuries or the loss of a loved one. Contact our experienced Omaha motorcycle accident attorneys at (402) 241-5020 for a free consultation.

by Hauptman, O’Brien, Wolf & Lathrop
Last updated on - Originally published on

Posted in: Motorcycle Accidents