The 2023 Comprehensive Guide: Everything You Need to Know About Motorcycle Helmets
Riding a motorcycle is an exhilarating experience, but safety should always be a top priority. One of the most crucial safety gear for riders is the motorcycle helmet. Let’s dive deep into the world of motorcycle helmets and answer some of the most frequently asked questions.
Required or Not: Motorcycle Helmet Laws by State (as of 2023)
Each state has its own set of laws regarding helmet usage. While some states mandate helmets for all riders, others require them only for specific age groups or under certain conditions. Always check your state’s regulations before hitting the road.
|Alabama||All riders are required to wear helmets.|
|Alaska||Riders 17 and younger are required to wear helmets.|
|Arizona||Riders 17 and younger are required to wear helmets.|
|Arkansas||Riders 20 and younger are required to wear helmets.|
|California||All riders are required to wear helmets.|
|Colorado||Riders 17 and younger are required to wear helmets.|
|Connecticut||Riders 17 and younger are required to wear helmets.|
|Delaware||18 and younger and passengers 18 and younger; novice riders and their passengers for the first two years after endorsement.|
|Florida||Riders 20 and younger are required to wear helmets.|
|Georgia||All riders are required to wear helmets.|
|Hawaii||Riders 17 and younger are required to wear helmets.|
|Idaho||Riders 17 and younger are required to wear helmets.|
|Illinois||No helmet law.|
|Indiana||Riders 17 and younger are required to wear helmets.|
|Iowa||No helmet law.|
|Kansas||Riders 17 and younger are required to wear helmets.|
|Kentucky||Riders 20 and younger are required to wear helmets.|
|Louisiana||All riders are required to wear helmets.|
|Maine||Riders 17 and younger are required to wear helmets.|
|Maryland||All riders are required to wear helmets.|
|Massachusetts||All riders are required to wear helmets.|
|Michigan||Riders 20 and younger are required to wear helmets.|
|Minnesota||Riders 17 and younger are required to wear helmets.|
|Mississippi||All riders are required to wear helmets.|
|Missouri||Riders 25 and younger are required to wear helmets.|
|Montana||Riders 17 and younger are required to wear helmets.|
|Nebraska||20 and younger are required to wear helmets. In Nebraska, riders 21 and older will not be required to wear a helmet as long as they have completed a basic certification course provided by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (effective 01/01/2024).|
|Nevada||All riders are required to wear helmets.|
|New Hampshire||No helmet law.|
|New Jersey||All riders are required to wear helmets.|
|New Mexico||Riders 17 and younger are required to wear helmets.|
|New York||All riders are required to wear helmets.|
|North Carolina||All riders are required to wear helmets.|
|North Dakota||Riders 17 and younger are required to wear helmets.|
|Ohio||Riders 17 and younger are required to wear helmets.|
|Oklahoma||Riders 17 and younger are required to wear helmets.|
|Oregon||All riders are required to wear helmets.|
|Pennsylvania||Riders 20 and younger are required to wear helmets.|
|Rhode Island||Riders 20 and younger are required to wear helmets.|
|South Carolina||Riders 20 and younger are required to wear helmets.|
|South Dakota||Riders 17 and younger are required to wear helmets.|
|Tennessee||All riders are required to wear helmets.|
|Texas||Riders 20 and younger are required to wear helmets.|
|Utah||Riders 20 and younger are required to wear helmets.|
|Vermont||All riders are required to wear helmets.|
|Virginia||All riders are required to wear helmets.|
|Washington||All riders are required to wear helmets.|
|West Virginia||All riders are required to wear helmets.|
|Wisconsin||Riders 17 and younger are required to wear helmets.|
|Wyoming||Riders 17 and younger are required to wear helmets. Helmets are mandatory for mopeds defined by the state as having an engine displacement of 50 cc or less, brake horsepower of 2 or less, and maximum speeds of 30 mph.|
You may notice that Iowa is one of very few states with no helmet law. This is thanks in large part to organizations like ABATE who fight for the rights and interests of bikers everywhere. The Biker Lawyers are proud members of ABATE and highly recommend you check out this awesome brotherhood!
It’s important to note that while these laws provide a general guideline, there might be specific conditions or exceptions in each state, and laws may change over time.
Always refer to the state’s official regulations or consult with a local attorney for the most accurate and up-to-date information.
Motorcycle Helmet Safety
Safety should always be the top priority when choosing a helmet. Here’s a more in-depth look at some of the safety aspects:
Helmets undergo testing to meet specific safety standards. The most common certifications are DOT (Department of Transportation), ECE (Economic Commission for Europe), and Snell. Each certification has its testing criteria, but all ensure a helmet provides adequate protection.
Material and Construction
Helmets are typically made from polycarbonate, fiberglass composite, or carbon fiber. Each material offers different levels of protection, weight, and comfort. Multi-layered EPS (expanded polystyrene) liners inside the helmet absorb impact during a crash.
Full-Face vs. Open-Face
Full-face helmets offer the most protection as they cover the entire head, including the face and jawline. Open-face or half helmets might be more comfortable for some, but they provide less protection.
The chin strap keeps the helmet securely on the head. It should be easy to fasten and unfasten, and when secured, the helmet should not move around on the head.
Visor and Face Shield
A good visor or face shield protects the rider from wind, debris, and UV rays. Anti-fog and anti-scratch coatings can enhance visibility in various conditions.
Helmets should be inspected regularly for signs of wear, damage, or degradation. The interior padding can compress over time, and the outer shell might get scratched or chipped. Any visible damage is a sign that it’s time for a replacement.
Even if there’s no visible damage after an accident, the helmet’s structural integrity might be compromised. It’s always safer to replace a helmet after a significant impact.
Safety is paramount, and while style and comfort are essential, they should never compromise protection. Always prioritize safety features when choosing a helmet and ride with confidence, knowing you’re well-protected.
Motorcycle Helmet Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What are the Disadvantages of Wearing a Motorcycle Helmet?
To be fair, wearing a helmet has undeniable safety advantages but it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. While the advantages of wearing a motorcycle helmet far outweigh the disadvantages, it’s important to consider all factors when deciding if wearing a helmet is right for you. Here are some commonly cited disadvantages of wearing a motorcycle helmet:
- Restricted Peripheral Vision: Some riders feel that helmets, especially full-face varieties, can restrict their peripheral vision. This limitation can potentially make it harder to see vehicles or obstacles on the side.
- Reduced Hearing: Helmets can muffle sounds, making it harder for riders to hear certain noises from the surroundings, such as horns, sirens, or other vehicles.
- Weight: Helmets, especially those made of robust materials, can be heavy. Wearing them for extended periods might cause neck or shoulder strain for some riders.
- Heat and Discomfort: In hot climates, wearing a helmet can become uncomfortable due to the accumulation of heat. Even with ventilation systems, a helmet can cause sweating and discomfort during long rides in the sun.
- Cost: Quality helmets with advanced safety features can be expensive. For riders on a budget, this can be a significant consideration.
- False Sense of Security: Some riders might feel invincible with a helmet on and might indulge in riskier behavior, thinking they’re fully protected. This mindset can be dangerous as helmets are just one aspect of overall road safety.
- Communication Difficulties: Conversing with fellow riders at stops or signals can be challenging with a full-face helmet, requiring riders to lift the visor or the entire helmet.
- Potential for Fogging: In colder or humid conditions, the visor of a helmet can fog up, reducing visibility. While many modern helmets come with anti-fogging features, it’s still a concern for some riders.
All this said it would be irresponsible of us to not remind you that despite these disadvantages, the safety benefits far outweigh the disadvantages when it comes to wearing a helmet.
But hey man, in the end, it’s your choice. That’s what freedom is all about!
What are the Benefits of a Half Helmet for Motorcycle Riders?
Half helmets, often referred to as “brain buckets,” cover the top of the head. They offer better visibility and more airflow, making them popular in hotter climates. However, they provide less protection compared to full-face helmets.
What are the Best Motorcycle Helmets for Beginners?
For beginners, venturing into the world of motorcycling can be both thrilling and daunting. One of the first and most crucial decisions a new rider will make is selecting the right helmet. A helmet is not just about protection; it’s about comfort, visibility, and enhancing the overall riding experience.
Here’s a deeper dive into choosing the best helmets for those just starting out:
- Fit and Comfort: A helmet should fit snugly without causing discomfort. A loose helmet can shift during a ride, obstructing vision and reducing protection. Many brands offer different shell sizes and interior padding options to ensure a perfect fit.
- Visibility: For beginners, a clear field of vision is essential. Helmets with wide eye ports offer better peripheral vision, helping new riders be more aware of their surroundings.
- Ventilation: Proper airflow is crucial, especially during longer rides or in warmer climates. Look for helmets with adjustable vents, allowing riders to regulate airflow based on weather conditions.
- Safety Standards: Ensure the helmet meets or exceeds safety standards like DOT, ECE, or Snell. These certifications indicate that the helmet has undergone rigorous testing.
- Ease of Use: Features like quick-release straps and integrated sun visors can make the riding experience more enjoyable for beginners.
- Price: While it’s tempting to go for the most expensive helmet, beginners should look for a balance between cost, comfort, and safety. Brands like HJC, Bell, and Shoei offer helmets that are both affordable and reliable.
- Reviews and Recommendations: Before making a purchase, beginners should read reviews, ask fellow riders for recommendations, and visit local shops to try on different models.
Remember, the best helmet for one rider might not be the best for another. It’s essential to find a helmet that suits individual needs and preferences.
Is a Motorcycle Helmet Still Safe to Use After an Accident?
No. Even if there’s no visible damage, the helmet’s integrity might be compromised.
Helmets are designed to absorb impact by dispersing and cushioning the force throughout the helmet’s structure.
Once a helmet has been subjected to a significant force, such as in a crash, its ability to provide the same level of protection is diminished. The materials inside, especially the EPS liner, are meant for one-time use; they compress upon impact to reduce the force before it reaches the head.
If the helmet hit anything during the accident, it’s probably best to replace it. Even a mild crash can cause unseen micro-damage, reducing the helmet’s protective capabilities in future impacts. It’s always better to be safe than sorry; your life and well-being are worth more than the cost of a new helmet.
Are Full-Face Motorcycle Helmets Safer?
Absolutely. Full-face helmets stand out as the top choice for riders prioritizing safety. They envelop the entire head, including the face, chin, and neck areas, which are notably susceptible during accidents.
The continuous shell around the head and face that full-face helmets provide also shields riders from environmental nuisances like wind, rain, debris, and pesky insects.
While the allure of open-face or half helmets might appeal to some for their style or breezy feel, when it boils down to sheer protective capability, full-face helmets reign supreme.
Is it More Safe to Wear a Motorcycle Helmet or Not Wear One?
The answer is clear-cut: strapping on a helmet is always the safer route.
Helmets are meticulously crafted to absorb and distribute the brunt of an impact, drastically slashing the risk of severe head traumas or fatalities.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), helmets are about 37% effective in warding off fatal injuries to motorcycle enthusiasts.
Riding without that protective layer leaves one exposed to direct, unforgiving impacts, potentially leading to traumatic brain injuries or worse.
Beyond the life-saving crash protection, helmets also serve as a barrier against the elements, elevating the overall riding experience. The decision to wear a helmet can spell the difference between a minor scrape and a catastrophic injury.
What Speed Are Motorcycle Helmets Rated For?
It might surprise some to learn that most motorcycle helmets undergo impact tests simulating speeds around 13-14 mph.
While this might seem modest given the velocities motorcycles can reach, it’s pivotal to grasp that these tests mirror the average speed a rider’s head would strike the ground in real-world mishaps, not the motorcycle’s cruising speed.
In a plethora of accidents, even if the bike is zooming at highway speeds, factors like sliding, tumbling, or the bike’s deceleration can temper the actual head impact speed. With that in mind, it’s always wise to champion safety and steer clear of reckless speeds.
Helmets offer a formidable line of defense, but they aren’t magic barriers. Adopting a responsible riding approach maximizes the protective prowess of any helmet.
Are Expensive Motorcycle Helmets Worth It?
When it comes to helmets, the age-old adage “you get what you pay for” often rings true.
Pricier helmets tend to offer enhanced comfort, superior ventilation, and cutting-edge features. They might also boast advanced materials and construction techniques that can provide better protection.
However, it’s crucial to remember that safety standards, such as DOT or ECE, remain consistent across various price points. So, while a high-end helmet might offer additional comforts and features, many mid-range helmets still provide excellent protection.
Should I Buy a Pre-owned Motorcycle Helmet?
Regarding pre-owned helmets: while snagging a deal might be tempting, helmets are one piece of gear you should always buy new. The reason is simple. Even if a used helmet looks pristine, you can’t be certain of its history. It might have been involved in an accident or dropped, which could compromise its structural integrity. Plus, the interior padding of helmets, designed to provide a snug fit, conforms to the shape of the original wearer’s head over time.
A used helmet might not offer the same level of comfort or protection as a new one tailored to your head shape.
Are Most Motorcycle Helmets One Size Fits All?
Definitely not. Just as every individual is unique, so is the shape and size of their head. Helmets come in a variety of sizes, from XS to XXL, and many brands even offer different shell sizes and interior padding options to ensure an optimal fit.
A proper fit is paramount for safety; a helmet that’s too loose or too tight can be a distraction and might not provide the best protection in an accident.
If you’re purchasing your first helmet, visiting a brick-and-mortar store can be invaluable.
Local motorcycle shops or specialty helmet retailers often have knowledgeable salespeople who can guide you through the fitting process. They’ll measure your head, recommend sizes, and let you try on different models. This hands-on approach ensures you get a helmet that fits perfectly, which might be challenging when ordering online without prior experience.
How Does the Sun Visor Work in a Motorcycle Helmet?
Integrated sun visors in motorcycle helmets are a game-changer for many riders. These visors can be flipped down to shield the eyes from bright sunlight, eliminating the need for sunglasses and making transitions from light to dark areas smoother.
But beyond mere shading, many of these visors offer UV protection. On average, quality sun visors in helmets can block out up to 99% of harmful UV rays, safeguarding your eyes from potential damage and reducing eye strain during sun-drenched rides.
When shopping for a helmet with a sun visor, it’s a good idea to check the UV protection rating to ensure you’re getting the best protection possible.
How Does it Feel to Wear a Motorcycle Helmet?
Slipping on a motorcycle helmet for the first time can be a unique experience. A well-fitted helmet should feel snug around your head, with even pressure distributed throughout, but without any uncomfortable tight spots. The top of the helmet’s eye port should sit just above your eyebrows.
As you wear it, you’ll notice a reduction in ambient noise and a sense of enclosure. This feeling of being “cocooned” can be reassuring for many, knowing that they’re shielded from potential hazards.
Does it Feel Good to Wear a Full-Sized Motorcycle Helmet?
Full-sized or full-face helmets, while offering the utmost protection, do come with a distinct feel.
The comprehensive coverage can initially feel a tad claustrophobic to some, especially those transitioning from open-face or half helmets. However, many riders grow to appreciate the serene environment it offers, shielding them from wind blast, noise, and debris.
Over time, as riders get accustomed to the sensation, the benefits of enhanced safety and comfort usually outweigh any initial reservations.
Is it Hot to Wear a Full-Face Motorbike Helmet?
Full-face helmets, due to their comprehensive coverage, can feel warmer than their open-face counterparts. However, advancements in helmet design have led to improved ventilation systems.
Modern full-face helmets come equipped with multiple vents that channel fresh air in and expel hot air out, creating a cooling effect. While they might feel a bit warm when stationary, especially in hot weather, the airflow while riding usually keeps the rider reasonably comfortable.
Do Motorcycle Helmets Get Sweaty?
Yes, especially during warmer days or intense rides, helmets can get sweaty inside. However, modern helmets are designed with this in mind. They often feature moisture-wicking liners that pull sweat away from the skin, keeping you relatively dry.
Additionally, advanced ventilation systems allow for airflow, helping to evaporate sweat and keep the rider cool. For those who ride in particularly hot climates, it might be worth investing in helmets with superior ventilation or removable and washable liners.
Do Motorcycle Helmets Block Sound?
Helmets are designed to reduce certain types of noise, primarily wind noise. A good helmet can significantly cut down on the roar of the wind rushing past, offering a quieter ride.
However, they won’t block out essential sounds like sirens, horns, or the engine’s roar. Some riders, especially those on longer rides or high-speed journeys, opt to wear earplugs to further reduce noise levels, ensuring they can still hear crucial sounds while protecting their hearing.
Do Motorcycle Helmets Loosen Up?
Over time and with regular use, the interior padding of a helmet can compress slightly, leading to a looser fit. This is a natural process as the materials conform to the shape of the rider’s head.
However, a helmet should never become too loose. If it starts to shift or rotate easily while on your head, it’s a sign that you might need a replacement or at least new interior padding. Regularly checking the fit and ensuring it remains snug is crucial for safety.
Is it Hard to Breathe in a Motorcycle Helmet?
For the uninitiated, the notion of a full-face helmet might conjure up concerns about breathability. However, modern helmet designs prioritize the rider’s comfort and safety.
- Ventilation Systems: Most helmets come equipped with a series of vents, especially around the mouth and nose area. These allow for a steady flow of air, ensuring that the rider can breathe comfortably.
- Anti-Fogging Features: To combat the issue of visors fogging up due to breath, many helmets have anti-fog treatments or pin-lock systems. This ensures clear vision without compromising breathability.
- Adjustable Features: Some helmets have adjustable chin curtains or breath guards, allowing riders to customize the airflow based on their comfort.
While it might take a ride or two to get accustomed, most riders find that breathing in a full-face helmet is no more challenging than in any other type.
What is the Most Comfortable Motorcycle Helmet?
Comfort is subjective and can vary from rider to rider. For this reason, it’s a good idea to know exactly what to look in terms of comfort for when choosing the right helmet.
Four Common Factors to Consider for Helmet Comfort
A helmet that fits well, neither too tight nor too loose, is paramount. It should hug the head without causing pressure points.
2. Lining and Padding
Helmets with plush, moisture-wicking liners tend to be more comfortable, especially on longer rides. Some helmets even offer customizable padding systems for a tailored fit.
Lighter helmets reduce strain on the neck and shoulders, enhancing comfort during extended rides.
A well-ventilated helmet can make a world of difference, especially in warmer climates.
Brands like Shoei, Arai, and Schuberth often receive high marks for comfort, but it’s always a good idea to try on several models to determine the best fit for your unique head shape and preferences.
What Do You Do with Old Motorcycle Helmets?
Once a helmet has reached the end of its life, whether due to age, wear, or an accident, it’s essential to retire it responsibly. Here are four solid suggestions:
- Recycle: Some areas offer recycling programs for helmets. The outer shell, EPS liner, and other components can sometimes be processed separately.
- Donate: Some organizations accept old helmets for display, educational, or artistic purposes. They might use them in crash demonstrations or for art projects.
- Repurpose: Get creative! Turn your old helmet into a planter, lamp, or any other DIY project.
- Dispose: If you can’t find a recycling or donation option, ensure you dispose of your helmet properly. It’s a good idea to cut the straps off to ensure it doesn’t get reused unsafely.
Remember, an old helmet should never be sold or given away for riding purposes. Its protective capabilities are likely compromised, and it could be dangerous for a new rider.
Should You Customize a Motorcycle Helmet with Bluetooth Audio and Accessories?
It’s essential to avoid any alterations that might compromise the helmet’s structural integrity, such as drilling holes. Instead, opt for accessories specifically designed for motorcycle helmets. In the world of biking, safety and functionality should always ride hand in hand.
Customizing a motorcycle helmet with Bluetooth audio and other accessories has become increasingly popular among riders, and it’s easy to see why. Bluetooth systems have revolutionized on-road communication, allowing riders to seamlessly connect with fellow bikers.
This is especially beneficial during group rides, where coordination and communication can enhance the overall experience. Beyond just chatting, these systems provide the added advantage of real-time navigation instructions, eliminating the need to frequently stop and check maps.
Beyond Practical Application: More Benefits of Helmet Customization
Of course, we can’t forget to mention the entertainment value.
Long rides can sometimes become monotonous, but with Bluetooth audio, you can immerse yourself in your favorite tunes, podcasts, or audiobooks, making the journey as enjoyable as the destination. This fusion of technology and riding brings a modern twist to the age-old thrill of motorcycling.
However, while the allure of customization is strong, safety should always be at the forefront of any modifications. If you choose to customize your helmet, you should be cautious to ensure that your enhancements don’t undermine the helmet’s primary function: protection.
Motorcycle helmets are a rider’s best friend, offering protection and enhancing the overall riding experience. Remember, safety first! And if you ever find yourself injured in an accident, don’t hesitate. Contact The Biker Lawyers for expert guidance and support.