Bill to allow Sikhs to ride without bike helmets in California


A bill that exempts Sikhs from wearing a safety helmet

A bill in California, known as Senate Bill 847 and authored by Senator Brian Dahle, has been approved by senators in the state. The bill exempts Sikhs from wearing safety helmets when riding motorcycles. The vote in the state senate resulted in a 21-8 majority in favor of the bill, and it will now proceed to the Assembly for further consideration.

Senator Dahle emphasized the importance of religious freedom and the right to freely express one’s religion. He stated that exempting individuals who wear turbans or patkas from wearing helmets is a way to protect everyone’s religious freedoms.

21-8 majority in favor of the bill

California has a significant Sikh population, with approximately 211,000 Sikhs residing in the state, which accounts for nearly half of all Sikhs in the United States. Supporters of the bill argued that no helmets currently available in the market can accommodate a turban or patka, and Sikhs believe that their turbans provide sufficient protection.

While 18 states and Washington D.C. have universal helmet laws for all riders, and 29 states require helmets for specific riders, California’s proposed bill would introduce an exemption based on religious practice, which is not present in any other state with helmet laws.

Similar discussions and considerations regarding helmets for Sikhs have taken place in other countries such as Canada and the UK. In Canada, Sikhs are exempt from motorcycle helmet laws in certain provinces.

The bill received support from various Sikh organizations, including the Legendary Sikh Riders, the Sikh Legends of America, and the Sikh Saints Motorcycle Club.

It is worth noting that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 5,500 motorcyclists died in 2020, and over 180,000 received emergency treatment for crash-related injuries.


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