Passionate motorcyclists will tell you there is no greater feeling than heading out on the road with the wind blowing through your hair. Road tripping on a bike is a unique experience — pure freedom. Riders become immersed, enjoying feeling every curve, temperature change, and bump in the road.
Unfortunately, the sensation of freedom all-too-often comes at a price. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 5,286 motorcyclists killed in the United States in 2016. That year, motorcycle riders were 28 times more likely to die in a crash than vehicle passengers.
The lack of doors and windows in which riders revel also means they’re devoid of the added protection during crashes. It’s stating the obvious but this is why, if you’re going to hop on a motorcycle and leave most of your body exposed on the roadways, you should at the very least protect your head and your brain.
The importance of always wearing a helmet on a motorcycle has been proven in countless studies. The NHTSA estimates that helmets saved 1,859 motorcyclists’ lives in 2016, and that 802 more lives could have been saved if all motorcyclists had worn helmets. Still, about 35 percent of motorcyclists don’t wear them. We hope that after discovering why you should always wear a helmet on a motorcycle and how to pick the right helmet, you’ll take a simple step to avoid becoming a statistic.
The Case for Riding Headstrong
Broken bones can be put in a cast and healed, but a broken brain cannot. Motorcycle accidents cause many types of serious injuries but if there’s one area worth protecting, it’s your skull. Even if you are only going 20 miles per hour, a motorcycle crash can cause your head to hit directly on pavement or concrete with alarming force.
If you don’t wear a helmet, are involved in a crash, and are fortunate not to be rendered completely brain dead, you can still suffer a traumatic brain injury (TBI). TBI can cause a long list of cognitive problems such as headache, difficulty thinking, memory loss, mood swings, and attention deficits. In severe cases, survivors of a brain injury may have limited function of arms or legs, abnormal speech or language, and loss of thinking ability. These consequences are often long-term or even permanent, and can have a profound impact on a person’s life.
Do Helmets Really Make a Difference?
It’s true. A quality helmet can significantly decrease the severity of a rider’s injury in the event of a crash. The hard shell stops the motion, while the inner liner of the helmet allows the head to remain in motion a bit longer. As a result, the head comes to a more gentle stop. The outer shell also spreads the impact force over a larger surface area, lessening the severity of blunt force trauma.
Not all Helmets are Created Equal
There’s a reason several different types of helmets exist. Each is designed specifically to protect your head from the types of impact that are common for particular activities.
Motorcycle helmets usually completely cover the rider’s head and face. They provide more coverage due to the speed and potential for impact that comes with motorcycling. When you’re helmet shopping, considerations will include preferred material, ventilation, weight, and design, as well as safety features such as the emergency cheek pad system.
Astute buyer’s check each helmet’s safety ratings. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) sets a minimum standard level of protection for motorcycle helmets, but some riders and safety experts say these minimums aren’t enough. A nonprofit called the Snell Memorial Foundation developed its own safety standards after the death of sports car racer, Pete Snell. The staff at the nonprofit researches and tests helmets in an effort to ensure they are equipped with the safest technology available.
Once you’ve picked out your favorite style and made sure its safety rating checks out, take some extra time to find the perfect fit. A properly-fitted helmet makes all the difference during an accident. If it’s too big, any amount of technology won’t save you.
Helmets Don’t Last Forever
After a fall or crash, it’s strongly advisable to throw your helmet away and replace it. They’re only really designed to protect against a single severe impact. Once the system has been cracked, it may not protect you again. If your helmet has obvious signs of damage such as a cracked shell or a dent, replace it. If you can’t see any damage but you know it absorbed a large amount of force, have the helmet checked by a retailer or manufacturer who can tell you whether or not it needs to be replaced.
Even if your helmet has never been damaged in a crash, it should be replaced about every five years. Over time, the lining may deteriorate and the materials used to design it can become ineffective. You may also benefit from upgrading to the latest and greatest helmet technology. Researchers are always finding ways to make motorcycle helmets safer and more effective.
It’s the Law
If injury prevention isn’t enough to convince you to wear a helmet, perhaps the law will be. Laws requiring only some motorcyclists to wear a helmet are in place in 28 states. There are only three states that don’t have a motorcycle helmet law at all: Illinois, Iowa, and New Hampshire. Nevada’s motorcycle helmet law requires motorcyclists to wear a helmet that fits the DOT standards. Not wearing a helmet could get you two points on your driver’s license plus fines that vary depending on the court.
Injured in a Motorcycle Accident?
Even if you’ve taken every self-preservation precaution, you can still be injured and even cited after a motorcycle accident. The Las Vegas attorneys at Shook & Stone have decades of experience securing financial compensation for those injured in motorcycle accidents. Let us fight for you while you focus on recovering. Contact us for a free consultation.