Recently, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has been cracking down on the use of novelty motorcycle helmets. These are helmets that do not meet the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 218. FMVSS 218 is a list of requirements set by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Helmets that meet these requirements are considered to be “DOT certified” and are given a DOT sticker to be placed on the outside of the back of the helmet. All helmets sold for use by motorcyclists in the United States are required to be DOT certified. However, novelty helmets are still being used, presenting a serious risk to riders.
What Does DOT Certification Mean?
DOT-certified helmets are designed to protect the head during most types of motorcycle crash impacts. The helmets are tested under conditions that simulate a moderate impact at up to 250 times the force of gravity (250g). DOT helmets are designed to absorb the force of the crash rather than resisting the impact.
Some DOT helmets have a second sticker from the Snell Memorial Foundation. A Snell Memorial sticker means that the helmet has passed additional testing and meets the more stringent Snell Foundation standards. Helmets that pass Snell’s M2010 guidelines generally meet both US DOT and European (ECE R22-05) standards.
Why the NHTSA is Cracking Down on Novelty Helmets
In an effort to keep motorcyclists safe in the event of a crash, the U.S. Department of Transportations’ National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). The NPRM addresses the ongoing use of novelty motorcycle helmets that are poorly constructed and do not meet safety standards for crash protection. Unfortunately, they continue to be sold for use.
Why is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration so concerned with the use of novelty motorcycle helmets? The following is an overview:
- Motorcycle helmets that are designed to meet U.S. Department of Transportation safety standards help save thousands of lives each year. Novelty helmets do not meet those standards and therefore do not provide the same safety benefits.
- Motorcyclists who are wearing novelty helmets – as opposed to those wearing U.S. Department of Transportation certified helmets – are far more likely to suffer serious head injuries in the event of a motorcycle accident.
- The new regulations would include a definition of what products are considered to be actual motorcycle helmets. They would also include specific criteria that can be used to identify helmets that do not meet federal standards.
- As with consumers, law enforcement faces a similar problem with novelty helmets. Currently, it is difficult for a law enforcement officer to quickly identify helmets that are incapable of meeting the minimum safety requirements.
Why State Motorcycle Helmet Laws Help Improve Safety
According to the NHTSA, only half of our nation’s states actually require motorcycle helmet use for all riders and passengers. Other states only require helmet use for certain groups, such as minors. Unfortunately, recent trends indicate that many states are actually repealing or reducing these helmet requirements.
How do motorcycle helmet laws improve safety? The following is an overview:
- Motorcycle helmets reduce the number of fatalities in a crash.
- Motorcycle helmets reduce the severity of injuries from a crash.
- More motorcyclists use helmets when they are required by state law.
- When helmet laws are repealed, fatalities increase by 20 percent.
Clearly, motorcycle helmet laws have a significant impact on overall safety. It is crucial for motorists and passengers to wear helmets in order to reduce the risk of severe injury or even death. Only properly designed helmets can prevent injuries during a crash, and these are the helmets that motorcyclists should be using.