Sikhs to ride without bike helmets in California, state senate clears bill


Exempting Sikhs from wearing helmets is a simple way to ensure the freedom of religion, a core foundation of US

Our Bureau

Sacramento, CA

A bill that exempts Sikhs from wearing a safety helmet when riding a motorcycle has been passed by the state senate with overwhelming support from the senators in California. The Senate Bill 847, proposed by Senator Brian Dahle has been approved by the state senate with a 21-8 vote margin this week. The bill will now move to the Assembly.

“Exempting those who wear turbans or patkas from wearing helmets is a simple way to ensure that everyone’s religious freedoms are protected,” Dahle explained the rationale behind the bill.

“Freedom of religion is a core foundation of this country. We, as Americans, have the right to freely express our religion and I believe that right should equally extend to everyone. Any law that limits the ability to express one’s religion, goes against what this country is all about,” Dahle stated after presenting the bill on the Senate floor.

As per the American Community Survey estimates of 2021, about half of all Sikhs living in the US reside in California, numbering 211,000 Sikhs. The state senate was informed about the lack of any helmet in the market which can accommodate a turban or a patka and the preference of the local Sikh community who considers the turban as good enough protection.

Presently, a universal helmet law for all riders exists in 18 states and Washington D.C. Other 29 states mandate helmets for specified riders, primarily riders under a certain age (typically 18 or 21 years). Only Illinois, Iowa, and New Hampshire have no motorcycle helmet laws. Moreover, this question of helmets for Sikhs has also been debated and considered in Canada and the UK.

“Although other countries and our own military make accommodations for Sikhs’ deep beliefs, out of the US states that require helmets, none has exemptions for Sikhs or any other group based on religious practice,” stated Dahle.

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