Weber & Carrier, LLP

Is my motorcycle helmet unsafe?

Donning a helmet could very well be the difference between life and death if you ride a motorcycle on a Connecticut road. That is why the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) has set safety standards for motorcycle helmets that are sold within the U.S. A helmet that does not meet these standards will likely provide inferior protection and increase the risk of injury or death. The DOT warns consumers to be on the lookout for unsafe helmets.

One way to determine if a helmet may not adequately protect you is to pay attention to how heavy the helmet feels. Helmets that met the DOT standard are typically three pounds in weight. An unsafe helmet is more likely to feel lighter in your hand. Unless the design of the helmet makes it heavier, an unsafe helmet will probably weigh only a single pound, perhaps even less. Also, helmets that will not adequately protect you tend to be smaller in diameter.

The right amount of interior helmet padding will help shield your head and keep it from knocking around inside your helmet. Unsafe helmets will not possess thick enough liners or may not even have the padding at all. DOT standards require helmets to have a polystyrene foam layer about one inch thick. Even if you cannot see the liner, you should be able to feel the layer’s thickness.

Helmet designs may also indicate an unsafe helmet. DOT safety requirements will not permit a helmet to extend beyond two-tenths of a single inch from the helmet’s surface. So if you discover protruding decorations like spikes on the helmet, chances are the helmet will not be safe for you to wear. However, exceptions are made for visor fasteners.

A safe helmet should stay anchored to your head. Do not assume that your helmet will stay in place simply because it fits well around your head. DOT standards require helmets to have strong chinstraps that will buckle firmly. These straps should also contain solid rivets. An unsafe helmet will have weak chinstraps or no straps at all.

The proper labeling inside the helmet can also denote whether the helmet is safe. A helmet that meets DOT requirements will have a sticker that says “DOT.” This sticker will be on the back of the helmet on the outside. However, some novelty helmets that are not safe may have this sticker, so be cautious. DOT compliant helmets will also likely have manufacturing information, such as the name of the manufacturer, the month and year the helmet was produced, and the model of the helmet.

Be aware that this article does not provide any legal advice. You should only read this article for its educational benefit.

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