Helmetless Motorcyclist Equals Broken Taillight . . . Sort of

I remember my motorcycling days fondly, and riding without a helmet was one of the greatest sensations of physical freedom I ever felt. Right up there with skydiving — maybe better. But I also think I was crazy to ride without a helmet. (I still think the skydiving made perfect sense.)

Richard Quigley probably doesn’t think I was crazy.  He was cited nine times for riding his motorcycle without a helmet and contended that law enforcement officers were required to issue him “fix-it” tickets instead of regular citations because his lack of a helmet was an “infraction involving equipment” that required such treatment.  In Department of the California Highway Patrol v. Superior Court, case no. H029406 (May 17, 2007), the Sixth District Court of Appeal holds that riding without a helmet is indeed a “correctable” violation subject to a fix-it ticket, but also holds that the officers had discretion to cite Quigley in this case because of they could have reasonably concluded that Quigley’s helmetless operation of his motorcycle met the statutory exception of an “immediate safety hazard” — an immediate danger to Quigley, that is.

Which leaves open the possibility that an officer could decide to issue only a fix-it ticket if the rider agreed to leave his motorcycle parked until he could retrieve and put on a helmet.  In that case, there would be no immediate safety hazard.  The hazard passed when the rider stopped the bike.

Hypothetically, one might even run across an officer that doesn’t find helmetless riding to be such a safety hazard that more than a fix-it ticket is required.  But I suspect any officer that feels that way isn’t likely to pull over a helmetless rider in the first place. Mr. Quigley, I wish you good luck finding those officers.

I expect the legislature will move on this issue.

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