Although there is a specific thrill that comes with motorcycle riding, chasing that thrill comes with a risk. For all motorcyclists, that risk is the possibility of a brain injury, hence why many motorcyclists wear helmets.
Under Tennessee law, you are required to wear a helmet on a motorcycle. The type of helmet you wear, however, is determined by a few factors. If you are under the age of 21, the helmet must conform to 49 CFR 571.218 (the federal standards for helmets). If you are 21 or older:
- Except as provided in subdivisions (a)(2)-(4), the helmet shall meet federal motor vehicle safety standards specified in 49 CFR 571.218;
- Notwithstanding any provision in 49 CFR 571.218 relative to helmet penetration standards, ventilation airways may penetrate through the entire shell of the helmet; provided, that no ventilation airway shall exceed one and one-half inches (1½”) in diameter;
- Notwithstanding any provision in 49 CFR 571.218, the protective surface shall not be required to be a continuous contour; and
- Notwithstanding any provision in 49 CFR 571.218 to the contrary, a label on the helmet shall be affixed signifying that the helmet complies with the requirements of the American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM), the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the Southern Impact Research Center (SIRC), or the Snell Foundation.
What is the true purpose of a motorcycle helmet?
The true purpose of all motorcycle helmets is to protect riders from life-threatening or fatal injuries in a motorcycle accident. The structure of a helmet is designed to reduce the risk of serious damage; however, that does not mean that the helmet can always protect the brain from enduring different types of brain damage. For example, a person’s brain is still capable of being jerked back and forth inside of the skull regardless of whether the person is wearing a helmet or not. This can lead to the person experiencing brain damage like contusions and bleeding around the brain.
We point this out because one “popular” reason people give for not wearing a helmet is that a rider can still be hurt – and this is true. But wearing a helmet may keep you alive or prevent the type of brain injury that requires 24-hour-care for the rest of your life.
How helmets make a difference in motorcycle accidents
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that motorcycle helmets help to reduce the risk of head injury by 69 percent. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data also shows the benefits of motorcycle helmets: per their findings, “In States without universal helmet laws, 57 percent of motorcyclists killed in 2019 were not wearing helmets, as compared to 9 percent in States with universal helmet laws.”
Choosing the safest motorcycle helmet
While helmets can certainly make a difference in how severe the brain injury can become from a motorcycle accident, not all motorcycle helmets are designed equally. This is why TN law requires a specific type of motorcycle helmet that meets all necessary safety requirements, and can help ensure that a motorcyclist’s head is thoroughly protected in the event of an accident. There are specific features that different models of motorcycle helmets can provide.
One of the features that a safe motorcycle helmet provides is an inner liner constructed from expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam. This inner liner is used to help motorcycle helmets absorb shock. Many motorcycle helmets also contain an additional comfort liner that many riders mistake for additional padding. The helmet should also possess EPS foam around the lower area that can help protect the face and jaw.
Safe motorcycle helmets should also contain a shell-built design that can help protect the head from directly colliding with the road. The helmet should contain thermoplastic composite shell-like polycarbonate. Another safety feature that the safest motorcycle helmet design should have is an impact-absorbing liner. This refers to the helmet’s inner liner that can give the top of the motorcyclist’s head comfort while being able to absorb most of the impact in a motorcycle accident. This liner would be the second line of defense that helps protect motorcyclists from potential brain injuries.
The full face helmet
One of the safest designs for motorcycle helmets is the full face helmet. The full face helmet is the safest design compared to the half helmet and the ¾ helmet. The full face helmet provides the most coverage for a motorcyclist’s head and neck. This helmet also protects the motorcyclist from the environment that he or she is riding in, from different weather conditions to rocks and flying bugs floating around.
This helmet design also equips a motorcyclist with a chin bar, which protects the motorcyclist’s chin from damage as well. Full face helmets also come equipped with a visor that offers additional protection for motorcyclists. Motorcyclists can wear a visor instead of sunglasses or other eyewear while driving.
How to choose the safest motorcycle helmet
When choosing the safest motorcycle helmet that can prevent brain injury from happening, motorcyclists should keep a few important factors in mind:
- Search for a motorcycle helmet that provides full face coverage. Although there are ¾ and half helmets, full face helmets offer motorcyclists the full protection of a motorcyclist’s face, head, and chin that he or she needs to protect them.
- Check for the DOT Sticker. All motorcycle helmets are required to comply with the NHTSA’s federal safety standards. Helmets that meet these standards are required to carry the Department of Transportation (DOT) seal of approval. If any motorcycle helmet does not possess the DOT seal of approval, these motorcycle helmets do not meet all of the required safety requirements.
At Bailey & Greer, our Memphis motorcycle accident attorneys go beyond what is expected of attorneys. We do not stop fighting until we know that we have helped you get the right amount of compensation to help you care for yourself and your family, and we do not settle for less than you deserve. Call us today at 901-475-7434 or fill out our contact form to set up a free consultation at one of our offices in Memphis or Jackson.
As founder of Bailey & Greer, R. Sadler Bailey has battled his fair share of insurance giants and wrongdoers and has achieved numerous multimillion-dollar results for the victims of catastrophic injuries and their families. What’s more, he has been involved in more than 40 appellate court decisions affecting Tennessee personal injury law, including many landmark appearances before the Tennessee Supreme Court.
Read more about R. Sadler Bailey