The Truth about Helmets

helmetDamage

There are a lot of myths and misconceptions out there about motorcycle riders. People often say we have a death wish or they misconstrue us as careless adrenaline junkies with no thought of consequence. The truth is most riders are very aware of how we put our lives on the line every time we ride. In fact I could argue that motorcycle riders are more aware of the consequences of a high speed crash than the general public. Although despite this knowledge, many riders still choose to ride without a helmet and the statistics are showing the consequences of it. Before you get angry with me I’m not here to support helmet laws, I don’t think you should have to be forced to do something you don’t want to. I do believe that we need more information readily available for riders to choose the best protection. Helmets save lives, there is no way around that. So today, I’d like to bring you the truth about helmets from the facts brought to us by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA). Here at J&P Cycles, we want our customers to ride safe. No matter how skilled you are, at the end of the day what we do is dangerous.

A common objection to helmet use is the misconception that brain injury prevention is outweighed by the probability of neck injury. The origin of this misconception is not clear, however a number of studies have failed to find neck injuries significantly over represented among helmeted riders. This suggests that helmets appear to have no clear effect on neck injuries. We have to keep in mind that when comparing helmet use in fatal crashes, as a collective un-helmeted riders tend to die in less severe crashes than helmeted riders. Simply because what should have been a relatively minor crash, turned fatal due to one unlucky blow to the unprotected head. On the flip side of this, a crash that turned fatal for a helmeted rider tends to be more violent with the rider sustaining severe below the neck injuries. With this in mind, let’s take an analysis of two major studies from the most credible sources available.

The MSF has a plethora of scientific research in their online library readily available for anyone curious enough to take the time to dive in. One article that I found particularly interesting investigated the “helmets break necks” hypothesis through a detailed reconstruction of 304 fatally injured motorcyclists in 295 crashes in Los Angeles County, with an emphasis on the causality of head and neck injuries. Tragically, during the study the University of Southern California Motorcycle Research Team had to actually start rejecting cases involving un-helmeted riders because of the low portion of helmeted rider cases. This truly speaks to the danger of riding without a helmet. This article “Helmets and Neck Injuries in Fatal Motorcycle Crashes” found that helmet use had no significant effect on neck injuries in the examined motorcycle crashes. An interesting outcome of this study is that helmet weight had no consistent effect on most of the neck injuries examined.

The NHTSA 2009 report “Motorcycle Helmet Use and Head and Facial Injuries” examined the relationship between helmet use and crash outcomes in terms of injury types. The resulting data shows statistical evidence that non-helmet wearers had significantly more facial, neck, and head injuries that required hospitalization as compared to helmeted riders. Additionally, statistics showed that non-helmeted riders suffered more severe injuries when accidents occurred as compared to helmeted riders. Numbers don’t lie, we can conclude from this evidence that crashing without a helmet leaves the rider at a greater chance for sustaining head and neck trauma than if the rider were to wear a helmet.

Here at J&P Cycles we want our customers to ride safe. We fully support and encourage the use of a helmet when riding. Whether you’re just going to the store or across the country, always opt for a helmet. You never know, it could save your life.

View our selection of motorcycle helmets here.

 

About the Author:

J&P Cycles Social Engagement and Content Specialist. Motocross racer and motorcycle enthusiast.

15 Comments

  1. Bullitt Bob May 31, 2016 at 7:40 pm

    HellMetts are a pain in the ass but they work if you wear one I am here because of my brain bucket.

  2. Gunner Lovich May 28, 2016 at 11:31 pm

    Here in New Zealand helmets have been compulsory since the 1970 so it’s the norm down here. We still get a few who for whatever reason choose not to wear one and suffer the consequences of doing so.
    As a medic who has attended many motorbike crashes over the years and also a biker it’s well known that in most cases helmets do provide very good protection from serious brain injury (TBIs) One should bear in mind that often serious injury and death is as a result of multisystem trauma not TBI alone.

  3. Roger Peterman May 28, 2016 at 6:29 pm

    I haven’t much riding time but I have been in two low speed (less than 50 MPH but greater that 35 MPH) altercations both wearing helmets. The first was a full face helmet. A mini van turned in front of me. I was thrown off the bike and over the hood. I suffered no head injuries. The second I hit a dear broadside. I was wearing an open face helmet without the shield installed. My nose was skinned up. I now will only ride with a full faced helmet. My elder brother absolutely refuses to ride with a helmet on. His choice. I support rider safety but I also feel it is up to the rider whether or not he or she wears a helmet.

  4. Thomas Stillings May 28, 2016 at 3:03 pm

    Very good article. I always wear a helmet, full face or half helmet. I prefer a full face helmet because of it’s unsurpassed eye protection.

  5. Ezelial Sledgenoodle May 23, 2016 at 8:05 pm

    Hit a stray dog driving home one night. Forks and front wheel bent ( BIG dog ), two simple bone breaks no road-rash ( leathersand, boots and Kevlar jeans ).

    Helmet ? Was wearing one. Slid on the tarmac which ground a hole in my skid lid.

    Hit by a drunk driver ( t-boned ). Flew up, came down hard cracked my helmet. Made it home to soak my bruises in a hot bath.

    In both cases, I’d either be a veg or would be pushing up Daisey’s without a Brain Bucket.

    At high speed, helmets are about as useful as putting brains in a politician. At speeds 50 mph or less they increase the chance a Biker will survive to Ride again.

    • Bill May 31, 2016 at 3:40 pm

      You’re wrong about the over 50mph, look at roadracing accident, most riders walk away, myself included.

  6. H.R. Cook May 10, 2016 at 5:45 pm

    Going 50mph into a slow downhill turn last year, a truck had spilled liquid lime a few minutes before me. My bike hit the slick spot went straight down slamming me and my head on the pavement. I slid 65 feet and down a 15 foot ravine. Leather helped my road rash and my half helmet saved my skull from the pavement. The helmet cracked on impact. I walked away. Helmets save lives more often than not.

  7. Dennis May 10, 2016 at 4:32 pm

    So as far a the research that I have looked at ..I have not found at what speed /force that the helmets are suppose to protect you from…..

    • J&P Cycles May 10, 2016 at 5:07 pm

      Dennis,

      That depends a lot on the safety standards, I would check out the information available from the Snell Foundation http://www.smf.org/ , check it out and let us know what you think! Many helmets now are created to protect you from a wide range of impact speeds that is why many helmet manufacturers are using multiple density EPS liners.

      Kaitlyn

  8. Mark May 9, 2016 at 11:33 pm

    Its a riders choice!! Helmets DO NOT save lives! If they did Dale Ernhart would still be winning races. As no two crashes are ever alike, there is no way that a helmet can be designed to save a life. By their design, they will only lessen the pain of impact.. I’ve had my head slammed against the rear quarter panel of a car at 45 mph, with out a helmet and survived. Others have had their necks broken. I do now wear a helmet and encourage all bikers to wear one, but again, its up to the rider…

    • Chris Bailey May 11, 2016 at 10:23 am

      As riders, we accept a certain amount of risk every time we throw a leg over. That being said, we can never eliminate all the risk…it’s about mitigating it. The proper gear mitigates the damage if and when something happens, period…whether it’s the helmet or what’s worn elsewhere. Same can be said for taking training classes & becoming a more educated ride…will it PREVENT mishaps? Maybe. Maybe not, but why risk it? The truth is, we’re all gonna get our tickets punched….but why wouldn’t you delay the inevitable?

  9. JD Day May 9, 2016 at 9:15 pm

    I have been in two hi-speed bike wrecks (+100 mph). Wearing a helmet in one, none in the other. Both took over a year for recovery and I have to say, wish I had worn a helmet in both. I wear a helmet always (my choice) BUT do not think any rider should be forced to wear one.
    Thanks for this article and its message.

  10. BJ May 9, 2016 at 9:15 pm

    Hi, my husband and I were in a high speed motorcycle accident and I will swear by my full face helmet. I believe it saved both of us from having more serious injuries. Same can be said for wearing full leathers.

  11. Bobby May 9, 2016 at 7:18 pm

    Though I choose to wear one . I have to admit !!! It really did (The Skull Bucket ) has saved me several times over the years. Too each his own I will wear the thing while I ride .

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