Sikhs May No Longer Have to Wear Motorcycle Helmets in California

Sikhs May No Longer Have to Wear Motorcycle Helmets in California

In California, Sikhs may no longer be required to wear helmets when operating motorcycles.

SB 847 was supported by state senators on Wednesday by a vote of 21 to 8. If the rider is wearing a turban or has a patka, which is a cloth covering over a small, knotted bun on top of their head, they are exempt from wearing helmets according to legislation sponsored by Brian Dahle (R-Yuba City).

The Assembly will now consider the bill.

The Sikh Legends of America, the Legendary Sikh Riders, and the Sikh Saints Motorcycle Club are some of the supporters. The County Health Executives Association of California and the Auto Club of Southern California both opposed it.

Dale Singh, 40, the president of the Sikh Motorcycle Club USA in Stockton said he would be “grateful” if the bill passes into law.

“You’ll see a lot more riders in turbans out there,” he said.

As for the security concern?

In the past, Singh recalled, Sikh soldiers wore turbans while fighting in World Wars I and II to protect their heads. He claimed that since it was acceptable back then, it must be acceptable now.

No other state exempts Sikhs or any other religious group from wearing helmets.

India, Canada, and the UK all have laws that exempt Sikhs from wearing helmets.

Sikhs should be able to freely practice their religion, according to Dahle’s analysis of the bill.

While the helmet law doesn’t intentionally discriminate against any particular religion, Dahle said that the “reality is that those who practice those religions are limited in how they can express their customs.”

Dahle said exempting those who wear turbans from wearing helmets is a “simple way to ensure that everyone’s religious freedoms are protected.”

There are about 211,000 Sikhs in California, and observant men are required to cover their uncut hair with a turban. A turban is a representation of the supremacy of God and humility. Additionally, there are many Sikh motorcycle clubs online.

Regarding this subject, safety is a long-standing problem.

California’s law requiring motorcycle riders to wear helmets was unanimously upheld by a state appeals court in 1993, with the court coming to the conclusion that the rule is both in the public good and not overly intrusive.

The 4th District Court of Appeal’s Associate Justice Sheila Prell Sonenshine ruled at the time that the state had the right to enact regulations that govern public safety, such as the helmet law.

The appeals court found that although motorcyclists “may not care if they die in an accident,” others who use the public highways “would clearly prefer not to kill them.”

A lawsuit filed in Orange County by four motorcycle riders claimed that California’s helmet law was unconstitutionally vague and violated their right to privacy and the freedom to associate.

Due to his turban and knotted hair, which are required by his faith, one of the four plaintiffs, a Sikh, claimed that the law violated his religious freedom.

Additionally, the four claimed that the law discriminates against those with disabilities, particularly those who use hearing aids and those who have neck injuries that make it difficult to support weight on their heads.

A law can be passed by the state legislature that invalidates a court order.

However, there is no denying that helmets save lives and guard against more severe injuries.

More than 180,000 motorcycle crash victims were treated in emergency rooms in 2020, according to the Center for Disease Control, and more than 5,500 motorcyclists lost their lives.

Nearly 2,000 motorcycle riders’ lives were saved in 2017 according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

But it’s not as if Sikhs can’t follow their religion and feel secure if they so choose.

In order to accommodate a hair knot covered by a patka, one Canadian company, Bold Helmets, has created a helmet with a bulge.

Another company has created an open-source design for a “Tough Turban,” which is made of a bulletproof-like fabric to create what the name implies – a tough turban.


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