According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 82 riders and passengers were killed in motorcycle accidents in Colorado in 2010. Of those killed, 66% were not wearing a helmet. The correlation between motorcyclists who don’t wear helmets and the increased risk of fatal injury is something that cannot be ignored.
What Does a Helmet Do?
Stated simply, wearing a helmet significantly reduces the risk of neck or head injury. According to the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, a helmet protects the head and face, cuts down on wind noise, deflects bugs and other objects flying through the air, contributes to a rider’s comfort during variable weather conditions, and helps reduce fatigue.
The “Hurt Report,” a study of more than 900 motorcycle accidents in which 40% of the riders were wearing helmets, found that no matter what speed the motorcycle was traveling, riders who were not wearing helmets were three times more likely to die of head injuries than those who wore helmets at the time of a crash. Contrary to popular belief among some motorcyclists, the “Hurt Report” also found no evidence that a rider’s helmet obstructed his vision and increased his risk of being involved in an accident.
Colorado Motorcycle Laws
Motorcyclists in Colorado are required to obey the same traffic laws as any other vehicle on the road, and riders who wear the appropriate gear naturally have a better chance of avoiding serious injury. According to the “Colorado Motorcycle Operator’s Handbook,” the proper gear for motorcyclists includes:
• Protective clothing
• Face or eye protection
• An approved helmet
Despite statistics that support helmet use, Colorado does not require adult motorcycle drivers or passengers to wear helmets, although all operators and passengers under 18 years of age must wear helmets that meet or exceed the standards established by the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) for motorcycle helmets.
DOT-certified helmets are designed to meet certain minimum safety standards, and bear the DOT and/or Snell sticker on the inside or outside of the helmet. They are designed to reduce injury from head impact through the use of a tough outer shell, an impact-absorbing lining, comfort padding, and a retention system, commonly known as a chin strap. The DOT requires that the chip strap be worn any time the motorcycle is in motion.
In the event of a crash, both the shell and liner will compress when hit, spreading the forces of impact throughout the helmet material. The science behind a motorcycle helmet is simple: The more the impact is deflected or absorbed, the less chance of head or brain injury to the rider.
Helmets Help Project a Positive Image
Besides the safety and comfort factors, wearing a helmet has another benefit: It shows that a motorcyclist is a responsible person who takes his or her life and his riding very seriously. No matter what the law says, those who wear helmets project an attitude that says they don’t take safety for granted.
Image by Gregg Vaughn.