Helmet Safety and How They Can Save Lives

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By Marcus Fernandez

News that Florida leads the nation in motorcycle accident fatalities should not come as a surprise. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the use of a helmet reduces the risk of dying in a motorcycle crash by 37 percent and the risk of suffering a head injury by 69 percent.

If you ride a bicycle, Florida poses as many risks to your safety as it does to motorcyclists. Recent news reports put Florida ahead of all other states as far as the risk of dying while riding a bicycle. The CDC cautions that not wearing a helmet puts bike riders at greater risk of suffering a serious head injury in an accident.

Florida law and use of helmets

Florida law exempts anyone 21 years of age or older from having to wear a helmet as long as the person has an insurance policy with at least $10,000 in medical benefits coverage. The state requires a helmet for bicycle riders under 16 years of age.

How a helmet protects a rider

The outer shell of a helmet prevents anything from penetrating and making contact with a rider’s head. It also spreads the effects of an impact with a hard object over a wide area to lessen the force on a person’s head.

Energy absorbing materials used as a helmet’s liner absorb the effects of a collision. The controlled compression the liner prevents a person’s head from absorbing the force of impacting an object or the pavement.

Chin straps might not be the first things to come to mind when discussing safety features, but keeping the helmet in place on your head allows the outer shell and the inner liner to do their jobs protecting you during a crash. If the chin strap breaks or a rider fails to properly fasten it, it could come off a rider’s head or move around on the head during an accident

Motorcycle helmet testing procedures

The DOT standard for motorcycle helmets covers three primary areas:

  • Energy absorption
  • Resistance to penetration
  • Effectiveness of the retention system

Energy absorption tests the ability of the helmet to withstand an impact and protect the wearer from by absorbing the energy it generates. Snell Memorial Foundation and the DOT test a helmet by fitting it onto a head-shaped form and dropping it onto a steel anvil to replicate a motorcyclist’s head striking the pavement or other hard surfaces in an accident. The test is repeated until at least four different locations on the helmet make contact with the anvil, which helps determine if the helmet construction can hold up to multiple impacts during a crash.

The DOT standard calls for a flat surface for the impact test. Snell also uses a flat anvil, but it adds a second dimension to the test by also striking the helmet against steel edge. The steel edge simulates a person’s head striking against a guardrail, signpost or other narrow and hard surfaces that could cause a helmet to crack under the force of the impact.

The penetration standard set by DOT requires a helmet be capable of preventing an object from piercing through and making contact with the user’s head. Testing involves dropping a striker from a designated height onto the helmet.

Testing the chin straps, the retention system, of a helmet involves subjecting the straps to weight for 30 seconds and then increasing the applied weight for an additional two minutes. The strap is then measured to determine the amount of stretching or displacement from the weight. It must meet minimum standards to withstand the forces of a collision and remain securely fastened on a motorcyclist’s head.

Bicycle standards and testing

The Consumer Product Safety Commission sets safety standards for bicycle helmets and conducts tests to ensure helmets sold to consumers meet those standards. Manufacturers must conduct tests on the helmets they produce before certifying that they meet CPSC standards. Tests procedures for bicycle helmets are similar to those used for their motorcycle counterparts.

Choosing the right helmet

When choosing a helmet in Florida, check to make certain it meets safety standards set by the DOT or CPSC. A motorcycle or bicycle helmet meeting these requirements has a sticker affixed to it certifying compliance. You should also make sure to get the right size helmet. A too loose or too tight helmet may not provide proper protection in a collision.

If a motorcycle or bicycle crash causes you to be injured, you should contact us or speak with a Tampa personal injury attorney. An attorney can tell you if you have a claim for compensation against a party whose fault caused the crash. The helmet manufacturer can be held responsible if it fails to protect you due to design or manufacturing defects.