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Choosing a Motorcycle Helmet

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, wearing a helmet improves your chances of surviving a motorcycle crash by 29 percent. NHTSA studies have demonstrated that wearing a helmet does not hurt a rider’s ability to see or respond to traffic. There is no valid safety reason not to wear a helmet. That said, choosing the right helmet is important in maximizing the value of the safety equipment.

The U.S. Department of Transportation maintains a certification standard for motorcycle helmet models. The first thing to check in choosing a helmet is whether a particular model is DOT certified. There is no shortage of helmets that are not certified. DOT regulations ban the sale of non-certified helmets designated as “motorcycle helmets” but manufacturers get around this by marketing them in different ways. A “novelty helmet” may have a design that appeals to riders, but they may offer little protection in the event of an accident. 

Certified helmets should have a DOT sticker verifying that they meet the recommended impact protection, penetration protection and retention standards. These standards describe the helmet’s ability to distribute the force of an impact, withstand flying debris and stay on your head through a crash. This last component is at issue when choosing the right helmet for you. If a helmet does not fit right, it is less likely to stay in place during an accident.

A helmet can be comfortable, but still not fit correctly. The DMV maintains that motorcycle helmets should fit snugly enough that they cannot be pulled off by grabbing the back and yanking forward. When you wiggle the helmet, you skin should move with the helmet. Many riders have to try a variety of options before finding a model that fits tightly without being painful or distracting.

Motorcycle helmets come in a variety of styles, including short, open-faced and full. Full coverage helmets offer the most protection, particularly when paired with a face shield. Another way to improve safety when selecting a helmet is to choose a color that draws attention. A substantial percentage of motorcycle accidents are the result of automobile drivers who claim not to have seen the motorcycle before the collision. A brightly colored helmet can improve your visibility and help other drivers notice you.

Source:, “How To Buy the Right Helmet,” 2015