Every day the number of motorcycles on the road increases, further escalating the risk of motorcycle-related crashes, injuries, and fatalities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that over 5,500 motorcycle riders died on U.S roads in 2020. In addition, there were over 180,000 motorcyclists treated in emergency rooms for crash injuries.
“No matter how careful road users are, the possibility of accidents happening is still there,” says Robert S. Marcus. Given these possibilities, motorcyclists have vital roles to play in ensuring that crashes do not result in fatalities or severe injuries. One of these roles is wearing motorcycle helmets when riding, which can help prevent these fatalities and injuries.
Statistics Showing How Effective Helmets are In Saving Lives of Motorcyclists
Years of research show that motorcycle helmets save the lives of motorcyclists. According to these studies, wearing a helmet does not guarantee motorcyclists will not sustain a head injury or die in a motorcycle accident; however, it significantly reduces the risks. The following show how effective helmets are in saving the lives of motorcyclists:
#1. Reduces the Risk of Head Injuries
Head injuries, including facial and Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI), are among the most common injuries motorcyclists suffer in fatal motorcycle accidents. However, motorcycle helmets reduce the risk of these injuries. According to the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) statistical analysis of decades of crash data, helmets reduced the risk of head injuries by approximately 70 percent.
A TBI is a disruption in the brain functionality caused by a blow, bump, or penetrating injury to the head. One primary function of the helmet is the absorption and distribution of impact energy in a motorcycle accident, diverting it around the head to protect the brain.
Thus, wearing a helmet reduces the risk of suffering a Traumatic Brain Injury and the severity of a TBI that a motorcyclist suffers. According to studies, a motorcyclist in an accident without a helmet is three times more likely to sustain a TBI than one who wears a helmet.
#2. Motorcycle Helmets Save Lives
Motorcycle helmets not only protect riders and passengers from brain injuries, but also save lives. According to the best estimates from public health researchers, wearing a motorcycle helmet reduces the risk of death in motorcycle collisions by approximately 42 percent. Putting the figure into perspective, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that motorcycle helmets saved 1,859 lives in 2016.
Furthermore, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that motorcycle helmets saved over 25,000 lives between 2002 and 2017. Motorcycle helmets are estimated to prevent fatal motorcycle injuries to riders by 37 percent and 41 percent for motorcycle passengers.
#3. More Helmet Use Could Prevent Additional Deaths and Save Economic Costs Every Year
According to reports, over 40 percent of motorcyclists killed in motorcycle accidents in 2016 were not wearing helmets. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 802 American motorcyclists could have saved their lives if they wore their helmets. The CDC also estimates that more than 749 riders may not have died in 2017 if they had worn their helmets. Furthermore, the CDC concludes that if all motorcycle riders wore helmets, the United States could save $1.5 billion in economic costs each year.
Choosing the Safest Type of Motorcycle Helmet
Safety of motorcyclists while riding motorcycles also depends on the type of helmet they buy. For motorcyclists to protect themselves, they need to purchase helmets that can reliably prevent death and injury in a motorcycle accident.
However, there are non-compliant helmets, often called novelty helmets. These are not suitable for highway use. They lack the impact absorption capability and durability required to protect motorcyclists during a crash.
Unfortunately, some riders unknowingly purchase and wear novelty helmets while riding, putting themselves in danger. Thus, to avoid buying the wrong helmet, motorcyclists should pay attention to the following features, which reflect the safety and quality of a given helmet:
#1. Helmet Style
Motorcycle helmets are available in different colors, sizes, and styles. These styles range from full face to half helmets and 3/4 helmets. However, a full-face helmet is considered the safest option for maximum protection.
It is the safest option because it provides the most coverage around the neck, head, and face. A full-face helmet also provides chin and jaw protection, which is essential because the chin receives 50 percent of the severe impacts in a motorcycle accident.
#2. Safety Measures
Motorcycle helmets have many safety measures. However, the most basic safety measures are impact-related, which include the following:
- How the helmet protects the motorcyclist from large-object collisions
- Retention system strength (whether the chin strap keeps the helmet in place in the event of an impact)
- Positional stability (whether the helmet remains in place during critical moments)
- The extent of protection (whether the helmet covers the entire head)
Regarding these measures, riders should choose helmets with the highest ratings in these categories.
Helmet protection can be ineffective if it does not fit properly. If a helmet is too loose, it will not absorb accident shocks and may even come off during a crash. As a result, riders should always choose motorcycle helmets that fit well.
The most ideal helmets for fit are ones that allow riders to tighten the chin strap until only two fingers fit between the chin and the strap. In other words, not leaving any gaps around the sides of the head or the front, back, or top.
It is also critical to note that a helmet is too small if it fits too tightly and is painful. On the other hand, a helmet is too big if it moves or slips up and down when you turn your head.
#4. Certification Sticker
Riders should also consider certification stickers when buying a motorcycle helmet. Three known organizations are the leading authorities in establishing safety standards for motorcycle helmets suitable for highway use. These organizations include:
- The Snell Foundation
- The Department of Transportation (DOT)
- The Economic Commission for Europe 22.05 (ECE)
Quality motorcycle helmet manufacturers follow at least one and often all the three safety standards established by these organizations. As a result, riders should choose helmets that meet the DOT safety standards, which usually have the DOT certification sticker. They can also buy helmets that have stickers or other markings indicating that they also meet Snell Foundation and ECE standards.
A motorcycle helmet is a vital part of the safety gear that all motorcyclists should always wear when riding their motorcycles. A helmet improves the chances of a motorcyclist surviving a crash without suffering fatal or severe brain injuries.
[Image via Pexels]
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