Brain injury is the leading cause of death for motorcyclists. Helmets protect you from these injuries by spreading and absorbing the force of an impact, slowing down your brain's movement as it bounces inside of the skull. This greatly reduces the force it withstands, and lessens your likelihood to receive severe or permanent brain injury and death. Here are the facts:
Motorcycle helmets have been shown to be at least 50% effective in reducing fatal head injury in motorcycle crashes
- 1, 2
Nationally, about half of all fatalities to motorcyclists from 1979 through 1986 were attributed to head injury
In Nebraska, for 2008-2013, there were 151 deaths resulting from a motorcycle crash, of those 88 (58%) were the
result of a head injury
Head injuries are one of the most common injuries after motorcycle crashes and were estimated to be the cause of
death in [over] 50 percent of these fatalities
Motorcyclists are at high risk in traffic crashes, particularly for head injury. A review of studies concluded that
reduce the risk of head injury by around 69 percent
- 1, 2
Analysis of [collected medical records] showed that motorcycle helmets are
67 percent effective in preventing brain injuries. Thus, if all motorcyclists had been wearing helmets,
67 percent of those unhelmeted motorcyclists who received inpatient care for a brain injury would not have sustained
the brain injury.
Unhelmeted riders are over 3 times (300%) more likely to incur permanent brain damage resulting in lifelong impairment
after a crash
Emergency room personnel at 8 hospitals throughout Iowa recorded accident, injury, and cost data on 268 motorcyclists who came or were brought to the hospitals from April through September 1989. Riders were included only if helmet use could be determined from interviewing the rider, ambulance staff, or investigating officers. The study coordinator, a registered nurse, used the descriptive injury data to assign AIS scores.
Permanent disability was suffered by 6.7 percent of the nonhelmeted riders compared with 1.6 percent of the helmeted
riders. (418% or 4 times more likely to receive permanent brain damage)
Eleven studies that compared the severity of injuries between helmeted and nonhelmeted riders all indicated that
helmet use reduced the severity of nonfatal injuries. These studies reported that helmet use reduced the incidence
of severe, serious, and critical head injuries by 46 to 85 percent. (two to five times (185% to 666%) more head
injuries among unelmeted riders across 11 studies)
California, a state with more than 10 percent of the nation's registered motorcycles and one of only two states that had never had a helmet use law applicable to adults, implemented a universal law in 1992, following extensive debate and publicity.
In the five years immediately before the universal law (1987-1991), the annual average of motorcyclists killed was
596. In the five years following adoption (1992-1996), the average was 274, a
54 percent decrease
In 1997, Texas became the (one of two of the) first states since 1983 to repeal universal laws requiring all motorcycle riders to wear helmets. Helmet use (prior to repeal) was 97 percent in statewide surveys. By May of 1998 (after repeal), observed helmet use had fallen to ... 66 percent in Texas.
Texas motorcycle operator fatalities increased by 31 percent comparing 1998 with 1996.
On July 1, 2000, Florida repealed the legal requirement that all motorcyclists wear protective helmets. State law now requires helmet use only by riders under the age of 21, and by older riders who do not have a minimum of $10,000 medical insurance coverage.
Fatalities in the two years following the law change were
71 percent greater than the two years before the law change.
Whatever the style you choose, wear a DOT certified helmet. Novelty helmets without certification offer virtually no protection and should be avoided entirely. Cost does not reflect a helmet's safety, and research shows certification to gurantee the same level of protection across all price points.
Where the spine and skull meet rests a section of the brain called the occipital lobe. Half helmets are the only certified helmet to leave this area completely exposed, along with the ears and sides of the face and jaw. For this reason, they have been shown to allow more than double the number of head and brain injuries when compared to other certified helmet types. There's nothing wrong with the love of the wind on your face, but a 3/4 helmet provides the same experience with actual protection.
There is no real choice when deciding between the two available open face styles. While the 1/2 and 3/4 share similarities at first glance, in an accident, the differences in their design can spell the difference between life and death. 3/4 helmets completely encases the back of the head and sides of the face and jaw. For this reason, they are shown to be almost as effective at preventing brain and head injury when compared to the champ: the full face helmets.
Almost 20% of all motorcycle accidents result in an impact to the face. It is the most likely region on the head to hit, and impacts here are shown to result in a higher incidence of brain injury. Open-face helmets cannot offer the same level of protection to this area. Because of this, full-face helmets are universally regarded as the safest helmet type, and shown to be the most effective in preventing head and brain injuries.
Incorrectly fastening or strapping your helmet significantly reduces its ability to protect. Helmets which do not securely fit, or which are incorrectly strapped, are over twice as likely to allow head and brain injury, and are a greater cause of facial injury than choosing an open face helmet type.
Motorcycle helmets offer superior protection over other reusable helmet types. Their shells hold a foam designed to buckle and split upon impact. This design is much more forgiving on the skull and brain, at the price of rendering the helmet ineffective after use. For this reason, they should never be worn again after an accident and it is also suggested to replace helmets which have ever been dropped with something in them.
A majority of the United States do not have a universal mandatory helmet law. If you live in one of these states, it does not make your roads any safer and should not encourage you to ride without protection. States who remove their universal helmet laws see motorcycle fatalities rise, while states which vote to enact universal helmet laws experience declines in rider fatalities. The following three states hold the largest riding populations: