Every year thousands of people around the world are killed on motorcycles, and motorcycle riders are 30 times more likely to be killed in an accident than car drivers. Motorcycle safety is the most important thing for anyone wanting to open up their hog on the open road, and motorcycle helmets are the lynchpin of that security. Here’s what you need to know about motorcycle safety and helmets.
Police officers have a couple of frank and brutal names for riders without motorcycle helmets: organ donors or, after an accident, “street pizza.” Anyone who gets onboard a bike without a helmet is literally taking their life in their own hands. A motorcycle crash is obviously more dangerous than that of a car—you have no protection from the concrete, steel and obstacles of the road when you are on your bike. The very freedom that attracts riders can mean even a low speed accident can cause death for those who forego motorcycle helmets. Those who live are often subject to serious brain damage caused by concussions or facial disfigurement.
These are the reasons why motorcycle safety advocates insist every rider wear a helmet. In some states and countries such helmets are absolutely mandatory, while in others it is left to the biker’s discretion. The truth is if you have any brains worth protecting, you will use a helmet. There are several different types, each with their own advantages and disadvantages.
First is the standard “full face” helmet used by most road riders. This thick and bulky helmet covers the entire head, and shields the face behind a transparent sheet of shatterproof Plexiglas or plastic. It also covers the chin, vital since a large number of accidents involve impact under the chin area. Only full face motorcycle helmets offer the kind of full motorcycle safety that conscientious riders seek.
But “full face” helmets are also sweaty, claustrophobic and muffle the wearer’s hearing. A popular alternative which seeks to offer the best protection at greater comfort is the modular helmet, fitted with a face mask which can be flipped open. Everyone who rides wants the wind in their hair—modular motorcycle helmets let you get a little air while keeping your brain all in one place.
Much less protective and not recommended by motorcycle safety experts are three-quarters and half helmets, which are exactly what they sound like. The three-quarters helmet looks like an American Football helmet without the facemask, covering the top and sides of the head, but fastened with only a strap (offering no chin protection) and typically without any face mask. Half helmets were more popular in decades past and only cover the top of the head. The obvious disadvantages for riders are less protection, particularly in the chin and face areas which are highly vulnerable and often exposed to injury during wrecks.
All this to say: if you are considering a bike, please keep motorcycle safety on your mind with a helmet. The alternative is disfigurement, loss of brain function or death.
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Filed under: How to Ride Safely
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