Can Wearing a Helmet Save Your Life?Motorcycle crashes are horrific accidents. They often result in severe and debilitating injuries and sometimes even death. According to a Governor's Highway Safety Association report, for every mile traveled, a motorcycle fatality happens 28 times more often than a passenger vehicle occupant fatality. For these reasons, it is no surprise that motorcyclists need to wear a helmet. Helmets not only significantly improve your chances of surviving a motorcycle accident, they also help lower the risk of you suffering a catastrophic injury. In this blog post, we dive into Florida's laws regarding wearing a helmet, explain why helmets are so crucial to your safety, and help you figure out which type of helmet is the best option for you.
Florida's Partial Helmet LawIn Florida, if you are a motorcyclist over the age of 21 and carry at least $10,000 in medical insurance coverage, then you are not required to wear a helmet when you ride. Even though many states have this partial helmet law, only Michigan and Florida require medical coverage. Younger motorcyclists, however, still need to wear a helmet, regardless of their insurance policy. Yet, just because you may have a choice to wear a motorcycle helmet, that does not mean it's a good idea to ride without one. Years of research confirm that helmets keep motorcyclists safe. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- Wearing a helmet reduces the risk of death in a motorcycle crash by 37 percent
- Wearing a helmet reduces the risk of a head injury in a crash by 69 percent
- Wearing a helmet saved an estimated 1,859 lives in one recent year.
- If every motorcyclist wore a helmet, it could save the United States more than $1billion a year in economic losses, not to mention that it would prevent immeasurable suffering on the part of crash victims and their loved ones.
How Effective Are Motorcycle Helmets?Numerous studies over the years verify that motorcycle helmets save lives and reduce the severity of injuries. In fact, wearing a helmet can prevent 9 percent of all injuries, while also being 26 percent effective in preventing severe injuries requiring transportation to the hospital emergency room, hospitalization, intensive care, and rehabilitation. The National Safety Transportation Board has indicated that head injuries are often the leading cause of fatalities in a motorcycle accident. However, reports also show that a motorcyclist who has an accident without a helmet is three times more likely to suffer brain trauma than a rider who wears a helmet. Remember, though, that if you want to stay safe while riding on two wheels, your safety depends on the type of helmet you select. To truly protect yourself, you need to make sure that you have a DOT-compliant helmet. These are the only helmets that can reliably prevent injury and death in a motorcycle accident. Non-compliant helmets (often called “novelty” helmets) are not manufactured for highway use, and lack the impact absorption capability and durability needed to protect a rider in a crash. Manufacturers of novelty helmets will usually put a warning label on them indicating that they are not suitable for highway use. Despite those warnings, some riders still wear novelty helmets on the road, putting themselves at risk (sometimes without realizing it).
The Safest Motorcycle Helmet TypeThree organizations are recognized as the leading authorities for setting safety standards of motorcycle helmets suitable for highway use: the Snell Foundation, a non-profit memorial foundation created to advocate for a high-quality standard of helmet safety; the Department of Transportation (DOT); and the Economic Commission for Europe 22.05 (ECE). Manufacturers of quality motorcycle helmets adhere to at least one, and often all three, of the sets of safety standards published by these organizations. When choosing your motorcycle helmet, pay attention to the following features, which reflect the quality and safety of a given helmet:
- Style of helmet: Motorcycle helmets come in many different colors, sizes, and styles. These styles include everything from a full face, 1/2 helmet, and a 3/4 helmet. For maximum safety, a full-face helmet is the safest choice. This is often because the full-face helmet offers the most coverage surrounding your neck, head, and face. These types of helmets can not only protect you from debris hitting you and inclement weather, but they will also offer your chin and jaw protection; a necessity since the chin suffers 50 percent of severe impacts in a motorcycle accident.
- Safety measures: There are numerous safety measures for motorcycle helmets. However, the most fundamental safety measures are often concerned with impact (how does your helmet protect you against collisions with large objects), retention system strength (does the chin strap keep the helmet in place on impact), positional stability (does the helmet stay in place at critical times), and the extent of protection (does the helmet protect all parts of your head). Opt for the helmet that has the highest ratings in these categories.
- Fit: Your motorcycle helmet should always fit your whole head, meaning that the chin strap can be tightened so that only two fingers fit between the chin and the strap and that there are no gaps at the front, back, top, or side of the head. A helmet is too small if the fit is painfully tight. It is too large if it moves or slips up and down when you turn your head.
- Certification sticker: A helmet that meets DOT safety standards will have a certification sticker on it. Never buy a helmet that does not have a DOT certification sticker. Ideally, the helmet will also have stickers or other markings showing that it also meets Snell Foundation and ECE standards.
Other Protective Equipment to Consider While Riding a MotorcycleA helmet represents the bare minimum safety gear any motorcycle rider in Florida should wear. Riders who want to protect themselves from serious, and potentially fatal, injuries to their bodies should also consider other forms of protective equipment. After a helmet, eyewear is especially critical. A full-face helmet does double-duty as the rider's face-shield and, often, sunglasses. This is important because small stones, sand, wind, and even bugs can blind a rider in an instant, almost always leading to an accident. Riders who opt for a 3/4 or 1/2 helmet should always wear glasses or goggles to protect their eyes. Additionally, for ultimate safety, motorcyclists need the following:
- A long-sleeved, heavy-duty jacket, preferably one designed for motorcycle riding that has extra padding to protect the spine;
- Boots; and
- Long pants made with padding and road-rash resistant materials.
How Often Should You Replace a Motorcycle Helmet?There is a consensus by motorcycle manufacturers and the Snell Memorial Foundation that motorcycle helmets need to be replaced every five years if a rider avoids an accident during that time, or immediately after any accident in which the helmet absorbed a blow. (Do not throw away your helmet after a crash, however—it could constitute important evidence in your legal action for damages against the party at fault for your wreck.) Why five years? Two words: helmet degradation. Over time, helmets simply wear out as a result of:
- Putting on and taking off the helmet, which results in the helmet materials becoming packed down, which causes them to lose some of their impact-absorbing qualities;
- The helmet's exposure to the elements, including direct sun, rain, and road debris; and
- Natural oils in the hair and skin, cosmetics, cleaners, and even fuel fumes, being absorbed into helmet material, which can cause it to degrade.
Types of Motorcycle InjuriesMotorcycle accidents can result in extensive injuries, including:
Traumatic Brain InjuriesA traumatic brain injury, or a TBI, is a disruption in the brain's normal functions, often caused by a blow, jolt, bump, or penetrating injury to the head. One of the essential functions of a helmet is to absorb and distribute the energy of an impact in a motorcycle accident, redirecting it around your head to protect your brain. As we noted above, wearing a helmet reduces your risk of suffering a traumatic brain injury, and decreases the severity of any TBI you do suffer, which protects you from suffering a fatal injury.
Spinal Cord InjuriesSpinal cord injuries damage the spinal cord, resulting in a loss of function, including feeling and mobility. Spinal cord injuries often result from the violent trauma of a rider landing on the road surface after a collision, or sustaining an impact with another vehicle. Wearing a helmet along with other protective gear can protect riders against spinal cord injuries, particularly injuries to the upper part of the spinal cord, which can cause the most severe disabilities.
Road RashMotorcyclists often suffer major road rashes when they slide along the road surface after being thrown from the saddle in a collision, or when they lay their bike down and slide while still on it. Friction with the rough road surface tear, wear away, and even burn a rider's skin, and can embed road debris in the wound. Road rash injuries pose a severe risk of infection. A motorcycle helmet with a full face shield can protect the motorcyclist's face from this dangerous debris and the resulting lacerations and abrasions typical of a road rash injury.
Thorax InjuryOne of the most common types of motorcycle injuries is a thorax injury. The thorax is the area between the ribs and the sternum. These injuries are often extremely serious because the ribs can puncture the other parts of the body and significantly harm internal organs, such as the lungs. While a helmet cannot necessarily help to prevent a thorax injury directly, it can reduce the chances of a rider suffering that or any other kind of injury by keeping the rider's face and eyes protected, which reduces the overall risk of a crash happening.
Motorcycle Helmets—The Bottom LineMotorcycle helmets save lives. Countless studies have shown this. Helmets not only protect motorcycle riders from suffering severe and fatal head and brain injuries, they also protect riders directly and indirectly against a host of other catastrophic and life-altering trauma to their face and bodies. Of course, even the best helmets cannot prevent all motorcycle accidents. Even when you take the utmost care riding your motorcycle and wearing all the protective gear necessary to keep you safe, you can still end up in a wreck that causes you significant injuries. If you suffered injuries in a motorcycle accident caused by someone else's dangerous decisions or actions, then you may have the right to receive substantial compensation. Contact an experienced motorcycle accident attorney today for a free consultation to learn about your rights and legal options.
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA 800 North Belcher Road Clearwater, FL 33765 (727) 451-6900 https://www.dolmanlaw.com/legal-services/motorcycle-accident-attorneys/