Can you afford not to try cheap motorcycle helmets?

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The subject of motorcycle helmets is unfortunately for a lot of motorcycle riders, something of an afterthought. Now I dont want to tar everyone with the same brush. I bet you spoke to all your biker friends, got some reccomendations, looked on the foums checked out the Net, and researched the topic thoroughly right? Most riders buy the bike, then buy the first helmet that comes to hand in the store, and if you do that, your motorcycle rides will be much less pleasurable than if you get a helmet that fits your head like, well, like a motorcycle helmet should!

Ignore the hype…

Let’s stop and deliberate about the claims that you are more likely to get in an accident if you are wearing a motorcycle helmet.

  • All the studies on this subject from U.S. and other places in the world show that riders who wear helmets crash less often?and suffer fewer injuries and deaths if they do crash. They are less likely to suffer long-term or lasting disablement caused by head or neck injuries.
  • A helmet that meets the D.O.T. standard (or Snell, even better),even a cheap motorcycle helmet, offers serious levels of protection if you crash.
  • By cutting down on the wind noise, helmets can actually help you hear other sounds better (not worse as many people would have you believeThese are usually the same crowd who preach “Loud Pipes Save Lives!”, but thats another story). By reducing fatigue from the wind, the helmet helps keep you more aware of potential hazards.
  •  By protecting your eyes from the wind, they allow you to see better.
  • A full-face helmet can keep you from being distracted when a large insect hits your face.
  • If you choose a bright-colored conspicuous one, you will be more visibleobivous to other road users, making it easier for other motorists to see and avoid you.

DOT Certification: the US Government Standard

Low cost motorcycle helmets aint gonna help if they don’t provide protection, and that D.O.T. (U.S. Department of Transportation) sticker on the back is your authority that when the day comes, the helmet will perform. The D.O.T. standard (its officially designated as Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard no. 218) requires, amongst other things, that a helmet soak up a significant amount of impact energy, prevent most penetration, and have a fastening system that will resist significant force. The D.O.T. standard works like this. If the producer certifies that its helmet passes the D.O.T standard, it can make and sell that helmet with a D.O.T. sticker. The division of the Department responsible for such things sporadically buys helmets and sends them to independent labs for scrutiny to assure that they actually do meet the standard. The D.O.T. posts the results on its website in a pass/fail form. A motorcycle helmet that fails can fail for performance (it allowed too much energy through in the impact testing or the chin strap failed), which the buyer should be concerned with or for labeling (which isn’t likely to matter to the buyer). The results may be found at the NHTSA website

Snell Certification; the independent standard bearer

You can make a very strong case that it’s worth looking for cheap motorcycle helmets that meets  the Snell Foundation standards. For one thing, when a manufacturer has gone the distance to meet both D.O.T. and Snell, it has usually made the effort to provide other user freindly features and benefits. However, the difference between the protection offered by a “novelty” helmet that does not meet any standards and a cheap D.O.T. motorcycle helmet is huge–the difference between life and death or the difference between animal and vegetable–while the difference between a D.O.T. helmet and a Snell helmet is in most cases quite small. The Snell Memorial Foundation has useful information for helmet buyers on its website.I am a big fan of the Snell certification system; the testing is entirely comprehensive and you can be sure that no matter what the monetary value a Snell certified helmet will perform. This has been verified in independent testing. So it is perfectly possible to buy cheap motorcycle helmets that will protect you as well as the most expensive styles presently available. The full list of Snell certified helmets can be found on their website, but performing a quick price ratification I can tell you that the cheap motorcycle helmets on the list are at $110 going up to $800 for the top of the range models. The list also includes information on sizes so you could use it to pick out a decent kids motorcycle helmet.

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