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What Makes a Good Helmet?

June 12, 2019

Taking a bicycle, motorcycle or moped around Colorado can be a fun way to get around town. It could also be dangerous to your safety – especially if you do not wear a helmet. Colorado law requires the use of helmets for riders and passengers 17 and younger. Even if you are an adult, however, wearing a helmet is a smart idea.

A helmet could significantly reduce your risk of sustaining a serious head, face or brain injury in a collision. Since you do not have the protective metal exterior of a motor vehicle, a helmet could be the only thing between your skull and the asphalt. Choosing the right helmet is critical. Wearing a bad helmet could be as dangerous as not wearing one at all.

Female motorcyclist wearing a helmet on the freeway

Snell or DOT Approval

Two entities set the standards for helmet safety in the U.S: the Snell Memorial Foundation and the Department of Transportation (DOT). These organizations set national standards that all helmets should meet. You can find out if a helmet fulfills these safety standards by searching for the Snell or DOT sticker, which should be visible somewhere on the helmet. Both organizations put helmets through a range of safety tests before approval.

  • Guided falls onto steel anvils
  • Impacts to four different parts of the helmet
  • Impacts against multiple anvil shapes
  • Tests of mechanical energy

If a new helmet has a Snell or DOT seal of approval, you can typically assume it is safe to use. Most states that require bicyclists and motorcyclists to wear helmets expect them to wear federally approved ones. Helmets without Snell or DOT approval could contain safety defects. Wearing an unapproved helmet could be a traffic infraction in these states – as if the user was not wearing a helmet at all. Always check for an approval sticker before donning a new helmet.

Proper Fit

The next measure of a good helmet is how it fits the wearer. Select the correct style based on your unique needs. You may want a full-face helmet, for example, if you are a motorcyclist who wishes to protect your face and mouth rather than just your skull. Then, find the right fit. Your helmet should fit snugly and comfortably on your head – not too tight or too loose. You should not be able to fit a full finger beneath your helmet, but it should not be so tight as to cause pain or discomfort.

Purchasing a helmet that fits your head may take help from a dealer. Ask for help in the shop where you are buying your helmet. Most professional shops will have tools to measure your head so you can find the ideal fit. It is important to find a helmet that fits you correctly. Otherwise, it could come off or fail to perform correctly in a collision.

No Previous Accident History

Most helmets will last up to five years without losing safety or effectiveness. The exception, however, is if the wearer gets into a motorcycle accident. If the helmet suffers an impact in an accident – or even if someone drops it hard enough – it could compromise its safety mechanisms. This is why it is important to purchase helmets new, not used. You may not know what a used helmet has been through.

A helmet could take a hit to its safety mechanisms in an accident without showing any outward signs of damage. The helmet’s hard outer shell, for example, could contain microscopic cracks that prevent the helmet from properly absorbing an impact. Even the smallest amount of damage could lead to a helmet splitting open or otherwise failing to protect the wearer when it matters most. Put your safety first by always wearing a new, federally approved helmet that fits you correctly.