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Finding the Right Motorcycle Helmet

In the summer of 2006, Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was in serious but stable condition after he was in motorcycle accident while not wearing a helmet. Luckily for Ben, he only had a broken jaw and nose and did not suffer any serious, life-threatening injuries. Unfortunately, some motorcyclists are not as lucky.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association [NHTSA], motorcycle fatalities represent approximately five perfect of all highway fatalities each year and approximately 80 percent of motorcycle accidents result in injury or death, compared to 20 percent for automobiles. In fact, according the NHSTA, motorcyclists are more than 37 times more likely to die in a crash than someone in a passenger car.

A 2007 NHTSA report on motorcycle fatalities indicates that there is a direct correlation between a head injury and helmet use. Around 51 percent of unhelmeted motorcyclists suffered a head injury compared to 35 percent of helmeted motorcyclists.

Helmets are the single most important factor in surviving a motorcycle accident. Between 1984 and 2006, the NHTSA estimates that helmets have saved more than 19,000 lives.

In 1995, Congress rescinded its helmet policy. Currently, only 20 states and the District of Columbia have a law requiring all riders to wear helmets. For an updated list of helmet laws by state, refer to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s helmet laws guide.

While in some states wearing a helmet is a matter of choice, there is some pretty compelling statistics that say wearing one can go a long way to helping you survive a crash and ride another day. Here are five ideas from Motorcycle Cruiser on how to pick the right helmet for you:

1. DOT Certification

Regardless of price, color or style, you should always ensure there is a D.O.T. (U.S. Department of Transportation) sticker on the back. This sticker indicates that the helmet meets D.O.T. safety standards, including the ability to soak up a significant amount of impact energy and the ability to prevent penetration and withstand significant force. You can find a list of helmets that meet these standards at the NHTSA site .

2. Roll-Off Test

One of the most important characteristics of a good helmet is whether or not it will stay on your head. To check this, first fasten the strap snugly around your chin. Then, grab the back of the helmet and try to lift it up and roll it forward off your head. A good helmet should not be able to come off, regardless of the amount of force you use.

3. Fit

A good helmet must fit snugly so that it is stable, even when you shake your head. A full-face or open-face helmet should grip your cheeks and jaw as well as the top and sides of your head. And remember, sizes can vary depending on the brand, so always remember to try the helmet on before you make a purchase.

4. Comfort

While your helmet should always fit snugly around your head, a good helmet should always be comfortable. Finding a comfortable helmet may take time, but finding the perfect helmet will also make your ride more enjoyable. Features that can make a helmet more comfortable include padding, a neck roll and a seal around the ear.

5. Coverage

There are three types of helmets: open-face helmets, half helmets and full-face helmets. Each of these offers a different level of coverage for your face. Full-face helmets provide the most protection, followed by an open-face helmet and a half-helmet. A 2003 UCLA study on motorcycle accidents, found that motorcyclists with facial injuries are 3.5 times more likely to have brain injuries. Those with facial fractures are 6.5 time more likely to have such injuries than those without facial damage. So, protecting your face with a full-coverage helmet can not only prevent a life-threatening injury, it can also save your life.

For more information about choosing a proper motorcycle helmet and motorcycle safety, you can visit Allstate’s page on motorcycle safety.

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