Helmets saved 1,829 motorcyclists’ lives in 2008, and 823 more lives could have been saved if all motorcyclists had worn helmets, reports the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Whether you’re new to the motorcycle world and are on the hunt for your first helmet, or you are a seasoned rider reevaluating the fit of your helmet, it’s important to make sure yours meets specific safety standards. You’ll not only protect your head, but also your wallet. Many states will issue you a ticket if you’re helmet-less.
Currently, 20 states, plus the District of Columbia, have universal motorcycle helmet laws for all riders. Other states specify that helmets must be worn for riders 20 years of age and younger. Still, other states like Florida, Kentucky, and Michigan, have clauses that require specific motorcycle insurance coverage for riders 20 years of age and older who choose not to wear a helmet.
Before hopping behind those handlebars, your best move is to play it safe; whether your state requires it or not, wear a helmet that has been given the stamp of approval by the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 218. Helmets that meet or exceed these high standards will have a sticker on the outside back with the letters DOT.
Once you have a DOT approved helmet in hand, you’ll want to make sure that it fits correctly! A poorly fitting helmet could prove to be fatal if you’re in an accident. Here are three quick steps to take when you’re looking for the right fit (NTHSA):
1) Keep it snug. The helmet should fit tight enough that you feel your skin moving with the helmet as you wiggle the shell.
2) See where the padding touches. With the helmet straps fastened, the cheek pads should touch your cheeks without pressing uncomfortably, and there should be no gap between your temples and the brow pads.
3) Roll your head forward with your head straight and the chin strap securely fastened. Can you pull the helmet off? If you can, keep looking.
Many riders try on dozens of helmets before choosing the right one. Picking a helmet can be just as hard as selecting a motorcycle. Every rider’s style and budget varies, as does their head size and shape! Choosing a helmet is a decision you’ll want to take your time making. Your helmet will do more than help protect you from injury in the event of an accident. It actually makes riding a motorcycle more enjoyable; a helmet cuts down on the roar of the wind in your ears and the blast of it on your face and in your eyes, and keeps bugs and debris out of your mouth and nose.
Combined with protective gear, rider-education classes, proper licensing, and public awareness, the use of helmets is one more way to reduce injury on the road. Check your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles website for rider education course offerings and the requirements for a motorcycle endorsement in your state. In some states, riding without an endorsement and a helmet could lead to a costly ticket! It only takes a few minutes to double check your state’s motorcycle laws and review your motorcycle insurance coverage online.
Next time you head out on the road, we hope you enjoy your ride and feel confident knowing that your helmet could help protect your brain, your face, and your life in the event of an accident.