Classic movies such as Easy Rider bring to mind images of riding in freedom with the wind in your face on the back of a motorcycle along the open roads of America. For some who ride, even here in Tennessee where helmets are required, that sense of freedom includes riding without a helmet. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to avoid a head impact in a motorcycle accident. As a result, a rider’s best chance at avoiding an injury or death is to wear a good helmet to protect his or her head.
But, it is not enough to simply go out and buy any old helmet. Helmets sold in the United States must meet minimum U.S. standards, which usually are indicated by a DOT sticker. This is better than having no helmet at all, but these are just minimum standards that leave a lot of room for improvement. Some helmets do not provide even basic protection for riders against injuries that can be foreseen in accidents involving head impact.
The “Snell” certification is a higher certification standard put out by the non-profit group Snell Memorial Foundation. While this standard suggests a much higher level of protection, it is a voluntary standard that helmet manufacturers are not required to meet. Therefore, you have to check to see if a particular helmet meets this standard. You can check to see if your helmet is certified to meet the Snell standards by going to their website at http://smf.org/cert.
There are other good reasons for wearing helmets. They can increase visibility for other vehicles on the road (consider if you’re wearing all black, perhaps get a helmet with reflective silver or bright colors such as green or orange for accents). They can also protect you from debris such as rocks or rubber from tires that are kicked up by vehicles in front of you.
Each of us has only one brain, and it is very difficult if not impossible to fix that brain once it has been seriously injured. Therefore, it is important to “use your head” by checking into the helmet you will be wearing before you end up needing it to protect your head in a motorcycle wreck.