Do I need to wear a helmet when riding an electric scooter?

A man wearing a bike helmet rides his electric scooter through London’s streets.

Electric scooters dot the urban landscapes of cities across the globe, but each country and state has its own rules and regulations regarding helmet usage. As legislation is not universal you may be wondering: do I really need to wear a helmet? 

In some places helmets are legally required, whereas in others wearing one is completely at your own discretion. Given that some electric scooters can reach speeds of up to 25 mph (40 km/h), falling off or crashing into another vehicle or obstacle without a helmet could result in serious injury.

While helmets may not be the most fashionable of accessories, they provide levels of protection that should never be taken for granted. Many cyclists know this, but as is often the case with relatively new technology, riders of electric scooters are often unclear about whether a helmet is necessary. 

Do I need to wear a helmet?

It all depends on where you are riding. In many countries or states where electric scooters are legal you are allowed to ride without a helmet, however some places have specific age requirements or require every rider to wear a helmet by law, regardless of age. 

Our advice? While you should definitely double-check the position of your local regulator on electric scooters and find out whether helmets are compulsory, we believe you should always wear one, even if it’s not mandatory. The helmet protects your skull and therefore brain which is one of the most important parts of your body.  As the old adage goes, it is always ‘better to be safe than sorry’, and with road vehicles, one can never be cautious enough. 

If you want a comprehensive guide to international e-scooter laws, keep your eyes on our blog as we will certainly be covering this topic again in the future. For now, we have briefly summarised the main countries and states that explicitly regulate helmet usage for electric scooter riders below.

An older man dons a black rounded helmet as he rides his motorcycle near a pink wall.
Photography by Julie Aagaard

United States

Electric scooters have become a roaring success in the US, with only four states either ruling them illegal or having no laws on e-scooters at all.

Notably, New York had a long-running crackdown on e-scooters but has recently legalised them and made helmets compulsory for under 18s. Progress is continuing in states like Massachusetts, where, although electric scooters are technically illegal, a bill is under consideration that will legally permit scooter use and require helmets for riders under the age of 16.

Of the forty four other states, twelve of them legally require electric scooter riders to wear a helmet, whilst the rest simply recommend their use (or do not mention helmets at all). 

Europe

With a wealth of cycling infrastructure in many cities, electric scooters seem to slot almost seamlessly into the streets of Europe. While electric scooters can be found on the streets of Spain, Italy, Germany and even the UK (despite them only being legal on private land for now), there is no unified position among European countries – nor even the cities within them – on legal requirements for helmets.

Only France and Sweden have declared that electric scooter helmets are compulsory across their nations but the law only applies to those under a specified age. Others have not yet made helmets a legal requirement for their citizens.

However, more countries are searching for ways to regulate electric vehicles, such as Romania, who are proposing a bill that will require all under 16s to wear a safety helmet.

Australia

Electric scooters are legal in all of the Australian states and territories to some extent, as the laws across the country have recently changed to accommodate these new electric vehicles. 

Despite this, only four of them – the ACT (Australian Capital Territory), South Australia, Tasmania and Queensland – explicitly require all e-scooter riders to wear helmets by law. The others simply encourage them to be worn, or only permit the use of electric scooters on private property, as in New South Wales and South Australia.

Asia

Just as in the rest of the world there is growing demand for electric scooters in Asia, but like elsewhere, rules and regulations vary throughout the continent.

For example, in Singapore riders can decide whether or not to ride their scooters without protection, but in South Korea and Japan these personal electric vehicles are classified as motorcycles under each country’s Road Traffic Act, and as such, all riders are required to wear helmets. For its part, India has also legalised electric scooters but doesn’t require helmets.

A man wears a cycling helmet and sunglasses.
Photography by Victor Xok

So should I wear a helmet?

While each country dictates whether you need to wear a helmet by law, in practice the choice generally lies with you. However, our view is that having your head protected is a necessity, rather than an option to be ignored.

As the number of e-scooter users is growing at an accelerating rate, so are the accidents involving them – which does not come as much of a surprise, considering their expansion within high-traffic, urban areas as well as the lack of dedicated infrastructure. 

A recent study by The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Surgery discovered that in 2019 less than 5% of injured riders wore helmets. This is alarming when one takes into account that nearly a third of e-scooter injuries involve the head, and when it has repeatedly been shown that helmet use is associated with a significantly lower risk of head injury.

In a study of 6,000 bike-related injuries, riders had a 52% lower risk of brain injury and 44% lower risk of death when wearing a helmet. So don’t play a game with chance – use your head by protecting it with a helmet!

Conclusion

In some areas of the world it is perfectly legal to ride your electric scooter without a helmet, and therefore whether you wear one is your decision. But is it safe? Helmets may be a pain to carry around and you might not look like a Fashion Week model, but you can never predict when you will really need one, so prevention is key.

As we have discussed, helmets can dramatically reduce the risk of serious head injuries by over 50%, so making the effort to wear a helmet each time you ride will guarantee a safer scooting experience. It is always better to be safe than fashionable and sorry! We are going to review the best e-scooter helmets in a future blog article, so hopefully you can become something of a head-turner whilst also being safe.

If you own your electric scooter you can always store your helmet and scooter together, however we recognise that it is much more difficult to have a helmet at hand if you just walk out of your door and find a rental scooter – another reason for regular users to own and not rent!

Hopefully this post has helped you to understand the importance of wearing a helmet, regardless of what your local authorities say. But with all the different kinds of helmets out there, what is the best type for electric scooter riders to wear? Read our post Electric scooter helmets: How to choose the best one for you to find out what you should look for when buying a helmet and what type may be best for you.

References

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