Most people know that wearing a helmet can help protect you in a crash. But did you know that helmets are the single most effective way to reduce head injuries and fatalities resulting from motorcycle crashes? In fact, helmets are about 37 percent effective in preventing motorcycle deaths and about 67 percent effective in preventing brain injuries.
So why aren’t more riders wearing them?
Lack of education, complacency, and personal choice are likely factors. In many states, however, motorcycle helmet use is mandatory. All riders and passengers are required to wear helmets that meet federal safety standards in 20 states and the District of Columbia. 28 states have laws requiring helmets for some riders, usually those younger than 18.
Although motorcycle helmets cannot protect riders from all injuries, they are still the best line of defense against head injuries. Riders who choose not to wear helmets are three times more likely to suffer brain injuries in a crash than riders who do wear helmets.
Helmets work by absorbing the force ofimpact and spreading it over a larger area of the head. The helmet’s liner slows the rider’s head, reducing the likelihood of a severe brain injury.
Most motorcycle helmets have a rigid outer shell made of polycarbonate, fiberglass, Kevlar, or other materials. The outer shell dissipates the force of the impact and protects the rider’s head from penetration by sharp objects.
The helmet’s inner liner is usually made of polystyrene foam. This liner absorbs the energy of the impact and helps to prevent the rider’s head from being jarred.
A properly fitted helmet should be snug but not too tight. It should sit level on the head and not rock back and forth or side to side. The helmet straps should be tight enough that the helmet doesn’t come off in a crash, but not so tight that it’s uncomfortable.
The best way to find a helmet that fits properly is to try it on. Be sure to try on different brands and sizes to find the one that’s right for you.
When you’ve found a helmet that fits, wear it every time you ride. And don’t forget to replace it every five years or so, even if it’s never been involved in a crash. The materials in the helmet will degrade over time, making it less effective in a crash.
If you’re still not convinced that wearing a helmet is a good idea, consider this: In 2016, 1,859 motorcycle riders and passengers were killed in crashes in the United States. Of those, 1,546 were not wearing helmets.
So do yourself a favor and always wear a helmet when you ride. It could save your life.