Pennsylvania Helmet Laws

Tips for understanding Pennsylvania’s motorcycle helmet laws

Ten year ago — in 2003 — Pennsylvania changed its laws to no longer require certain motorcyclist to wear helmets. The details are important, however. This article discusses who can ride without a helmet and who must still wear a helmet.

Who Can Ride Without a Helmet

Motorcyclists who are 21 year or older are generally not required to wear a helmet so long as they meet one of two criteria. First, motorcyclists who are 21 years or older who have been riding a motorcycle for 2 years or more are not required to wear a helmet. Or, second, a motorcyclist (who is 21 years or older) who has completed a rider safety class that has been approved by the PA Department of Motor Vehicles or the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF).


Certain motorcycle passengers may also ride without a helmet. Motorcycle passengers who are 21 years or older may ride without a helmet so long as the driver of the motorcycle is not required to wear a helmet. Put another way, if the motorcycle operator must wear a helmet, the same goes for the passenger.

Under 21 Drivers

All motorcycle operators under 21 years of age are required to wear a helmet regardless of whether or not they have taken and passed a driver safety course.

Learner’s Permits

Motorcycle operators who are still subject to a learner’s permit are required to wear a helmet. When the learner’s permit period ends, the motorcyclist is then subject to the other rules set forth above in this article (regarding age, length of riding experience or passage of safety class).

Eye Protection

Every operator or passenger on a motorcycle must wear eye protection that has been approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Motor Vehicles.

3-wheeled Motorcycles

People who operate or are passengers in a 3 wheeled motorcycle do not have to wear a helmet, so long as the vehicle has an enclosed cab.