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Motorcycle Helmets

Why Is It So Important To Wear A Helmet On Motorcycles?

Riding a bike gives riders a sense of freedom on the open road. However, there are serious risks involved in riding without a helmet. A motorcycle does not provide the structural protection that a car offers to keep drivers safe in the event of an accident. Motorcyclists need to take extra precautions to protect their bodies. The most important place to start with is the protection of the head. 

The head and brain are most vulnerable to injury in a motorcycle accident. Drivers and passengers wearing helmets significantly increase their chances of survival over non-helmets. 

In 2012, the National Highway Safety Administration estimated that 1,699 lives had been saved because people wore helmets. Between 2008 and 2010, there were 14,283 motorcycling fatalities in the United States, and 6,057 (42%) of those who died were not wearing helmets.

What Should I Look for in a Helmet?

  • Thick inner liner – Helmets complying with the minimum Federal safety standards usually have a firm, polystyrene foam inner liner about one inch thick. If a helmet has soft foam padding or a bare plastic shell with no padding at all, it's not a safe helmet. 
  • Strong chin straps and rivets – the helmet should have sturdy chin straps with solid rivets to keep the helmet securely in place on the wearer's head. 
  • Helmet Weight – Helmets complying with federal safety standards usually weigh about three pounds. Lightweight helmets are typically unsafe. 
  • Department of Transportation (DOT) Sticker – Helmets complying with Federal Safety Standards must have a sticker on the outside of the helmet with the letter "DOT" attesting that the helmet meets the standards set out in FMVSS 218.
  • Snell or American National Standards Institute Sticker – A helmet that satisfies safety requirements may be additionally certified by private, non-profit organizations such as Snell or the American National Standards Institute, in which case it would have a certification sticker. 
  • Manufacturer's label – FMVSS 218 requires manufacturers of helmets to place a tag inside the helmet indicating the manufacturer's name, model, size, month and year of use of the helmet, construction materials, and owner's information. If the helmet does not have the label, it should be considered unsafe.

Motorcyclists need to understand the risks of riding without a helmet. Riders who do not wear helmets are at risk of traumatic brain injury if they are in an accident. Without protection, the head is vulnerable to trauma in the event of an accident, even when traveling at low speeds. 

National Highway Safety Administration studies of non-fatal motorcycle injuries show that riders who did not wear a helmet had higher health care costs, more prolonged hospitalizations, longer recovery periods, and increased loss of quality of life. 

Because the fatal risk of traumatic brain injury is so high, motorcyclists need to take action to protect themselves while riding. The wearing of a helmet approved by the Department of Transportation is one of many precautions that a rider can take to increase safety on the open road.

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