Seven Ways to Identify Unsafe Motorcycle Helments

One of the surest ways to cause a brain injury in a motorcycle crash is to wear the wrong helmet or no helmet at all. Virginia motorcycle regulations require that everyone on a bike be wearing a helmet. In addition, the driver either be wearing a helmet that provides some sort of eye protection or must have a face shield on the front of his bike.

But this doesn’t mean that you should be strapping on any old helmet. Here are seven things that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends that you look for in a helmet:

  1. A Sturdy Chin Strap and Rivets. A helmet with cheap rivets or a loose chin strap can be just as bad as not wearing any helmet at all if you are ejected from your bike in a crash.
  2. A Heavy Feel. Unsafe helmets tend to weigh less than a pound. Obviously, you don’t want a helmet that will hurt your neck, but the safest helmets are about three pounds. This weight allows them to pack enough padding and protection in.
  3. Thick Inner Lining. In order to meet the minimum Federal safety standards, a helmet must have an inner liner of about one-inch thick polystyrene foam. Unsafe helmets, by contrast, normally have soft foam padding or no padding at all.
  4. DOT Sticker. This is a simple way to evaluate the safety of your helmet – if it has a DOT sticker, you can be sure that it meets or exceed FMVSS 218 and provides you a good level of protection.
  5. Snell or ANSI Labels. These are located on the inside of a helmet to show that the helmet meets the private, non-profit stnadrds of safety from Snell or the American National Standards Institute.
  6. Design & Style. Unsafe helmets tend to be smaller in diameter and thinner than DOT helmets. Additionally, DOT safety standards do not allow anything to extend more than 2/10 of an inch from the surface of the helmet (such as spikes or other decorations)
  7. Manufacturer’s Labeling. FMVSS 218 requires that manufacturers place a lable on or inside the helmet stating the manufacturer’s name, model, size, month and year of manufacture, construction material and owner’s information. Helmets without this labeling typically do not meet Federal safety standards.


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