Motorcyclist Safety: Choosing a Motorcycle Helmet
Most states, including Texas, require motorcyclists to wear a helmet that meets Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. Other states, such as New Mexico only require motorcyclists under the age of 18 to wear a helmet. Regardless of legal requirements, the CDC widely recommends that all motorcyclists wear helmets to protect themselves from brain injuries in the event of an accident. In a single recent year, helmets saved 1,872 lives and could have saved 749 more had accident victims been wearing helmets. Helmets reduce the risk of grave head injuries by about 69%.
There’s a lot that goes into choosing the right helmet, from picking one that meets all requirements to selecting the look you love. Most importantly, our New Mexico motorcycle accident attorneys emphasize that it is essential to choose the best helmet to provide protection in an accident to maximize your chances of going on to live—and ride—another day.
How Do You Know if a Helmet Meets Federal Safety Standards?
Whether you’re buying your first motorcycle helmet or upgrading to something new, you don’t have to worry about looking up federal safety standards and then checking a helmet for every individual required feature. Helmets that meet this standard bear a DOT sticker from the Department of Transportation on the back of the helmet at the base. This sticker only appears on helmets that meet at least the minimum safety standards which include the following protections:
- A specific level of impact attenuation (cushion absorption)
- Peak acceleration of 400 Gs
- A reliable retention system (buckles and straps to keep the helmet in place while riding or during an accident)
- Meets labeling requirements
Keep in mind that meeting the minimum safety standards doesn’t mean your search should end there. Many helmets go beyond meeting the minimum requirements and put additional protections in place.
Find the Right Fit
Choosing a helmet that meets safety standards doesn’t help if it’s such an uncomfortable fit that you hate wearing it. You might just decide to leave it off for that short trip to the corner market, but accidents happen when you least expect them. Be sure to choose a helmet with a comfortable, wearable fit. Plus, the DOT safety label specifies that the helmet is only safe when fitted properly.
Choose a helmet with a liner that fits comfortably against your head with no wide gap between your head and the liner, but one that doesn’t fit tightly against the head and causes discomfort. Safety experts and New Mexico personal injury attorneys recommend trying on a helmet and wearing it for half an hour to ensure it fits comfortably before you ride.
Finding the Right Shape for Your Head
Helmets come in round, short oval, long-oval, or intermediate (medium) oval shapes. A medium oval is the most common head shape and the most common helmet shape. By choosing the right shape for your head, you’re more likely to have a snug but comfortable fit with no uncomfortable pressure points. If you feel pressure on the front, back, or sides of your head, it’s likely that you’ve chosen the wrong shape. By looking at the general shape of your head from the top of your head rather than the face you can better judge its shape and find the right style helmet. You can also use a soft measuring tape and measure the circumference of your head from just above the eyebrows and around the top.
Choosing Face Coverage
After ensuring a helmet has the right fit and meets safety standards, you’ll also have to choose the amount of face covering you prefer. While full-face covering offers the most protection and open-face helmets offer the least protection with the greatest airflow, you could also choose one with only an eye shield. Before making a decision, check your state’s helmet law to see if eye protection is also required. Some states, including Texas, only require eye protection for off-road riding, but New Mexico requires either a helmet with a protective shield or separate goggles.
Modular helmets are hybrids that have hinged face shields that can swing open to convert from full protection to an open-face style but should not be worn open while actively riding. They offer convenient access when you stop for a drink or something to eat, but may feel a little heavier than typical helmets.
Finally, choose a helmet in a color that you like. If you find a helmet that looks good and feels right, you are more likely to wear it each and every time you ride.