Bikers are a pretty safe group once they have experience. It seems that the biggest problem is the way other drivers on the road behave, and being on a motorcycle puts you at a disadvantage when it comes to protection. Passenger vehicles obviously have a protective cage to safeguard occupants, while bikers are totally exposed to the elements. Even though laws regarding helmet use vary state to state, it just makes sense to wear one regardless of where you are. However, helmets aren’t created equally, and choosing the wrong one could be a deadly mistake.
You Should Know the Statistics Before You Get on Motorcycle
Bikes are great. They provide the freedom to travel, are economical, and are easier on the environment than passenger vehicles. Let’s be realistic, though. Bikers face serious risks, and if you start to become complacent and forget this, you’re putting yourself in danger. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gathered some statistics you need to be familiar with before you get on a bike.
- Every year, 55,000 motorcyclists are hurt in accidents.
- More than 2,200 bikers die in collisions annually.
- If you’re in a collision, there’s more than an 80% chance you’ll be hurt or killed.
- Compared to a person in a passenger vehicle, the risk of death is 16-times greater.
- You can reduce your risk of death by almost 30% if you wear a helmet.
The Design of the Helmet Matters
There are agencies like IIHS that verify the safety of all sorts of things, from vehicles to child booster seats, but there isn’t one that publishes the safety data of helmets. Guidelines for helmets are created by the Department of Transportation, and they do verify helmets meet them, but they don’t publish the data in any type of consumer-friendly way. Helmets that meet their guidelines are marked with a sticker, but it’s important to be aware that similar decals are sold individually, and it’s easy to make a helmet appear as if it meets DOT standards when it doesn’t. Some manufacturers go the extra mile to get certified by American National Standards Institute (ANSI) or Snell. Because their guidelines exceed the DOT’s minimum requirements, the NHTSA believes helmets that meet their approval are good choices.
A Tucson collision repair shop provides us with 5 tips for choosing a safe helmet:
- Skip novelty designs. German army and skullcap designs will not provide adequate protection in a collision. A full-face model is best.
- Avoid helmets that have embellishments. Anything that extends more than two-tenths of an inch from the helmet poses a risk. This includes visors and decorative items like spikes, which seem to be trendy right now.
- Choose a helmet that has a chinstrap and sturdy rivets. This is one of the requirements from the DOT. If a helmet does not have them, it does not meet the minimum safety requirements.
- Select a heavy helmet. Some companies will skimp on protective padding and use materials like Styrofoam. This doesn’t cut it in a collision. Materials that provide optimal shock absorption are heavy, and a helmet that uses them will weigh at least one pound.
- Opt for a thick, hard helmet. The material of choice in a safe helmet is often polystyrene foam, and it should be at least one inch thick. It’s also firm, so avoid helmets that feel padded or have give on the inside.
Wearing a Helmet is Essential, but Accident Prevention is Better
You may be a safe rider, but you’re only as safe as the other drivers on the road. Unfortunately, people don’t instinctively look for bikers, so it’s up to you to compensate for their lack of concern. In addition to choosing a safe helmet, you should consider additional protective gear like gloves, over-the-ankle boots, and abrasion-resistant attire. Bright colors and reflective clothing can also help, as it catches the attention of drivers, so they become aware of your position. Experts also recommend that motorcyclists travel in groups whenever possible, simply because it increases visibility.
When you purchase your new helmet, keep these things in mind. It may be helpful to research different brands and models online before you select one. This way, you can be sure you’re choosing one that’s undergone safety tests and is certified. It’s also worth noting that if you live in a state with strict helmet requirements, you must wear a DOT-compliant helmet to be compliant with the laws.
Jamie Hanninen is the marketing manager for Phoenix auto body