Riding a motorcycle can be a fantastic and exciting experience—there’s a freedom to be enjoyed, and on the practical side, it is more fuel economical. But a motorcycle is not like its much larger counterparts on the road, like cars, SUVs, and freight trucks. Without a protective frame to stand in the way between you and another vehicle in the case of a collision, terrible injuries can occur from just the vehicle-to-vehicle contact, but getting thrown from your motorcycle can result in even further injury or possibly death.
Types of Helmets
Head injuries are a frequent injury when motorcycle accidents happen. It is why in some states, helmets are required for all under the ages of 18 or 21, and universally required for all riders in 19 of our states. (It should be noted that there are a few states that have no helmet laws at all) But whether you’re legally obligated or not to wear a motorcycle helmet, with the prospect for grievous injury you should take wearing a helmet very seriously.
There is a broad selection of helmets to choose from, styles to fit every taste, and it’ll offer the protection you need when the unexpected happens. Have a look at the types of DOT-approved helmets that you can purchase and wear.
Full-Face Motorcycle Helmet
The full-face motorcycle helmet is a popular choice that you’ll have on many riders. It sports a face shield, is aerodynamic in shape, and is known to be both comfortable and breathable with good ventilation. Because it provides complete coverage, it is also a safe choice for a motorcycle rider.
Hi-Viz Motorcycle Helmet
The hi-viz motorcycle helmet also provides that full coverage safety like a full-face motorcycle helmet, still including a face shield as well. However, they give an added level of protection by increasing your visibility with bright neon colors, so that drivers can spot you faster and avoid a potential accident.
Modular Motorcycle Helmet
A modular motorcycle helmet can be adjusted to either be a full-face helmet or open-face. This flexibility allows for greater airflow or for greater protection from airborne material as you ride, depending on your preference.
Dual-Sport and Off-Road Motorcycle Helmets
Both of these helmets afford their riders extended chin bars and visor shades—however, unlike the full-face motorcycle helmets, if you want to protect your eyes, you’ll need to purchase goggles. These helmets are ideal for those who love off-road motorcycle riding as well as motocross events. For some dual-sport motorcycle helmets, you can find them with face shields included.
Half-Helmets and Open-Face Helmets
While these helmets afford some head protection, it should be noted that they often do not have chin guards, which can lead to increased safety risk, and you will encounter a bit more wind noise as you ride. They also do not sport face shields.
Is Your Helmet DOT-Compliant?
Ultimately, whichever helmet you choose, you should make sure that they afford some sort of proper protection. The best way to ensure that is to check for whether the helmet is DOT-compliant. When looking at a potential helmet for your motorcycle riding, please look for the DOT label, which is usually right on the back of the helmet. The DOT label should read “FMVSS No. 218”, FMVSS standing for the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard.
With that said, it is also possible for helmets in some stores to not be safe. If they are missing their DOT label or they have a suspicious looking label that may be fake, it likely is not safe to wear those helmets. Collector helmets or novelty helmets are often meant to just be kept on display and not to be worn while riding. Wearing an unsafe helmet can lead to an increased chance of head injury, which can be fatal. Here are some ways to spot an unsafe helmet:
- Part of what makes a real motorcycle helmet reliable and tough is their materials, which also leads to an increase in weight. A motorcycle helmet that is DOT-compliant is around 3 pounds in weight. If your store is trying to sell you a helmet that feels lighter than three pounds, you’re likely being sold an unsafe helmet. As such, if you notice a vendor or a shop trying to sell a helmet as “the lightest weight possible” or “the thinnest helmet possible”, chances are it is not a DOT-compliant helmet and should be avoided.
- Real motorcycle helmets have to be thick to provide the proper protection that your head needs in the case of a collision. Unsafe helmets may be less than 1 inch in thickness, and they may lack the inner lining of stiff foam that helps absorb shock—without the shock-absorbing foam and the thick protective materials, an unsafe helmet will prove little help in an accident.
- To remain DOT-compliant, motorcycle helmets may not have anything extending from the helmet more than two-tenths of an inch, with visor fasteners being the only exception. If your motorcycle helmet is being decorated with spikes, ridges, or some other decoration extensions, the helmet is likely unsafe and should not be worn for actual riding.
By ensuring that your helmet is DOT-compliant, you’ll have an extra layer of defense to protect you from the potential consequences of a collision. A head injury can be life-threatening, especially in the case of riding on a motorcycle without the protective frame of a car or a truck. Whatever style of helmet you choose, so long as they are DOT-compliant, you increase your chances of making it back home safe.
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