Canadian Motorcycle Helmet Laws

By Teo Spengler - Updated March 15, 2018
woman with motorcycle helmet

latina rider image by Leticia Wilson from Fotolia.com

You, your motorcycle and the open road. If it's your dream to take your bike across Canada, the open road will stretch on ahead like a ribbon over the Canadian Rockies, through giant forests, beside snow-covered tundra. Canada's scenery can't be matched anywhere, and the same is true of the laws and regulations it uses to keep motorcycle riding as safe as possible.

Tip

All 10 provinces and three territories in Canada require anyone driving a motorcycle or riding on one to wear a motorcycle helmet that meets designated safety standards.

Motorcycle Helmet Laws in Canada

Several big differences in the vehicles make motorcycle riders very much more at risk on the road than those driving cars. A bike is smaller and has only two points of contact with the road, as opposed to the four points of contact that a car has. A motorcycle is also harder to see than a car and offers less physical protection for the rider's body. Notably, the rider's head is outside while traveling, not inside the metal vehicle. It is easy to understand that the most effective safety equipment you can wear while riding a motorcycle is the helmet.

Canada takes motorcycle safety seriously. Recognizing that motorcycle drivers are much more likely to get into an accident than car drivers, and much more likely to get hurt or die in a collision, the government began imposing safety helmet rules in the 1960s. Today, many experts claim that Canada's stringent laws are responsible for the nation's very impressive safety record.

Each of Canada's 10 provinces and three territories has its own motorcycle safety laws, much like the states in the U.S. However, when it comes to helmets, all 10 jurisdictions require that anyone traveling on a motorcycle wear a motorcycle helmet. That means the person driving the bike needs a helmet and any passenger also must wear a helmet.

Motorcycle Helmet Safety Standards

All provinces and territories in Canada mandate the use of a motorcycle helmet that meets certain safety standards. Those who set the standards perform tests on helmets to evaluate how well the helmet protects against collisions with large objects, whether the helmet stays in place during impact, whether the chin straps and hardware are sufficiently strong to hold on the helmet during impact, and the area of the head that is protected.

To be safe, a motorcycle helmet must build in a rigid head covering with a strong, stiff outer shell and a crushable liner that protects the head by absorbing the energy of the impact. Generally, full-face helmets and visors are not required.

Different Provinces and Territories, Different Standards

The matter is slightly complicated by the many possible standards. Each province and territory is free to specify the standard the helmet must meet so check before you ride.

Some provinces, like British Columbia, give a rider many choices. In British Columbia, motorcycle drivers and passengers must use helmets that meet one of these safety standards:

  • DOT: conformance with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 218; Motorcycle helmets (United States of America),
  • Snell M2005, M2010 or M2015: certification in accordance with the Snell Memorial Foundation 2005, 2010 or 2015 Standard for Protective Headgear for Use with Motorcycles and Other Motorized Vehicle, or
  • ECE: approved in accordance with the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) Regulation No. 22

To meet the requirements of the law, the safety helmet must be labeled to display the certification label. Detailed requirements and label images are provided below.

In Ontario, helmets must meet one of the three standards that British Columbia requires, or one of the following:

  • Canadian Standards Association Standard D230 Safety Helmets for Motorcycle Riders and shall bear the monogram of the Canadian Standards Association Testing Laboratories;
  • British Standards Institute and shall have affixed thereto the certificate of the British Standards Institute.

About the Author

From Alaska to California, from France's Basque Country to Mexico's Pacific Coast, Teo Spengler has dug the soil, planted seeds and helped trees, flowers and veggies thrive. World traveler, professional writer and consummate gardener, Spengler earned a BA from U.C. Santa Cruz, a law degree from Berkeley's Boalt Hall, and an MA and MFA from San Francisco State. She currently divides her life between San Francisco and southwestern France.

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