Georgia Bicycle Helmet Law and Required Bicycle Equipment and Accessories (O.C.G.A. § 40-6-296)

Legal Commentary. This Georgia bicycle statute governs the required headgear for bicycle riders in Georgia. Essentially, the Georgia bicycle helmet law provides that everyone under the age of sixteen (16) years must wear a ANSI compliant helmet. If you are over 16, then you do not have to wear a bicycle helmet in Georgia. Moreover, there are no criminal penalties for failing to wear a helmet. Subsection (d)(6) makes it clear that no person under 16 years of age can be fined or imprisoned. However, when read in conjunction with O.C.G.A. § 40-6-297, it is possible that a parent could be charged with a misdemeanor of failing to equip their child with a bicycle helmet.

As an Atlanta Georgia bicycle and cycling injury lawyer, I would worry more about how a negligent motorist might blame the cyclist, even a child, for not wearing a helmet. Subsection (d)(5), however, provides that the failure to wear a helmet shall not be considered negligent on the part of the cyclist. Therefore, a child injured in a serious Atlanta bicycle accident should not be judged negligent himself or herself for the failure to wear proper headgear. This is similar to the law concerning seatbelts.

Subsections (a)(b) and (c) provide the Georgia law with respect to the necessity of a required bike light for nighttime bicycle operation, a proper brake and the prohibition of “Ape” or “Ape Hanger” high bicycle handlebars. These high handlebars are extremely dangerous and have caused several deaths nationwide. Most states now ban such high handlebars.

The full text of the law is set forth below:

Section 40-6-296 Required equipment for bicycles; no person under age of 16 to ride or be passenger on bicycle on highway, bicycle path, or sidewalk without bicycle helmet

(a) Every bicycle when in use at nighttime shall be equipped with a light on the front which shall emit a white light visible from a distance of 300 feet to the front and with a light on the back which shall emit a red light visible from a distance of 300 feet to the rear. Any bicycle equipped with a red reflector on the rear that is approved by the Department of Public Safety shall not be required to have a light on the rear of the bicycle.

(b) Every bicycle sold or operated shall be equipped with a brake which will enable the operator to make the braked wheels skid on dry, level pavement.

(c) No bicycle shall be equipped or operated while equipped with a set of handlebars so raised that the operator must elevate his or her hands above the operator's shoulders in order to grasp the normal steering grip area.

(d) (1) No person under the age of 16 years shall operate or be a passenger on a bicycle on a highway, bicycle path, bicycle lane, or sidewalk under the jurisdiction or control of this state or any local political subdivision thereof without wearing a bicycle helmet.

(2) For the purposes of this subsection, the term "bicycle helmet" means a piece of protective headgear which meets or exceeds the impact standards for bicycle helmets set by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) or the Snell Memorial Foundation.

(3) For the purposes of this subsection, a person shall be deemed to wear a bicycle helmet only if a bicycle helmet of good fit is fastened securely upon such person's head with the straps of such bicycle helmet.

(4) No bicycle without an accompanying protective bicycle helmet shall be rented or leased to or for the use of any person under the age of 16 years unless that person is in possession of a bicycle helmet at the time of the rental or lease.

(5) Violation of any provision of this subsection shall not constitute negligence per se nor contributory negligence per se or be considered evidence of negligence or liability.

(6) No person under the age of 16 failing to comply with any provision of this subsection shall be fined or imprisoned.

HISTORY: Ga. L. 1973, p. 471, § 5; Code 1933, § 68A-1207, enacted by Ga. L. 1974, p. 633, § 1; Ga. L. 1990, p. 2048, § 5; Ga. L. 1993, p. 518, § 3; Ga. L. 2000, p. 951, § 5A-7; Ga. L. 2005, p. 334, § 18-10/HB 501; Ga. L. 2011, p. 426, § 3/HB 101.