One favorite American pastime is jumping on a Harley and going for a ride. It never ceases to amaze me how many motorcycle enthusiasts are actually out there, taking meticulous care of their beautiful bikes. However, as a dentist, it also amazes me to see how many of us fail to take care of our most precious asset…our noggins! When thinking about going for a ride, motorcycle safety is critical.
Of course, I understand that many of my friends do not believe in the use of helmets. Those who are adamantly opposed to wearing helmets cite several studies that question their effectiveness. They may, in fact be right. However, my literature search proves that healthcare costs, brain damage, and fatality statistics are dramatically reduced with helmet use.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, helmets reduce the risk of death in motorcycle accidents by 29%. In those accidents where survivors wear helmets, they are three times less likely to suffer traumatic brain injuries than if they were not wearing a helmet. Historical studies related to helmet laws in the U. S. also support these estimates. For example, Texas has had intermittent periods in the past 30 years in which strict helmet laws were implemented. During the times when the helmet law was lifted, there were between 11 and 35% increases in motorcycle fatality rates. This trend has also been observed in California, Maryland, Oregon, Nebraska, and Washington during the past few years.
If you believe these statistics and choose to wear a helmet, it is important to select one that is effective. Look for one that ideally has both a “Snell” rating and is “DOT” approved. The “Snell” rating tells you that the helmet has been tested above and beyond the requirements for “DOT” approval, but it is not necessary to be legally sold as a motorcycle helmet. However, in order for a helmet to be sold as a motorcycle helmet, it must meet basic standards and carry the “DOT” emblem. When selecting a helmet remember the 4 S’s: Size, Strap, Straight, and Sticker.
- Size: The helmet should fit comfortably all the way around your head; it should not shift on your head.
- Strap: The chinstrap should fit around your ear and under your chin comfortably.
- Straight: The helmet should fit low on your forehead, just above your eyebrows.
- Sticker: Look for at least the “DOT” label; ideally, there should also be a “Snell” label.
Want more information?
For further information on helmet safety, check out the following web sites: www.hwysafety.org, www.smf.org, and www.webbikeworld.com. Enjoy your bike this summer. Above all, please ride safely and responsibly.