Motorcycle Helmets: Wear One if You Choose To

written by David Mixson

Whether you wear a helmet when you ride is your choice (at least in states without mandatory helmet laws)—and I’m not interested in trying to change your mind.

Readers are usually surprised when I say this.

If I were to obsess about my preference for full face helmets, I think it would subtract from topics I’m passionate about. In other words, some would ignore everything I had to say because they didn’t like me preaching about helmets. It’s not my purpose to change anyone’s mind about helmets.

My passion is to help riders keep from crashing.

For the same reason arguing shorter stopping distances is the main advantage for ABS is flawed (or that loud pipes save lives); saying the solution to reducing motorcycle fatalities is mandatory helmet laws simply misses the mark.

Riders wearing even the best helmets crash and die every day in single-vehicle crashes all by themselves—caused by rider error. That’s the statistic I’m most interested in changing.

Don’t mistake wearing a helmet as a means to reduce your chances of crashing. They don’t. They just reduce your chances of a head injury (or death) if you do crash. See the videos below.

Looking at the crash data, I’m convinced that ABS and ESC on all street motorcycles would save significantly more lives.

On the Fence?

If you’re on the fence about wearing a helmet, here’s something from an NHTSA study I found interesting. I especially like the last sentence.

“Helmets are estimated to be 37 percent effective in preventing fatal injuries to motorcycle riders and 41 percent for motorcycle passengers. In other words, for every 100 motorcycle riders killed in crashes while not wearing helmets, 37 of them could have been saved had all 100 worn helmets.”

Helmet Usage: Illustration One

While looking for lowside and highside crash videos to illustrate them, I ran across these two videos. Neither rider was severely injured.

In the video below, the slow motion portion (part way through the video) shows the rider hitting his head on the pavement. Yikes! That would have certainly felt different without a helmet.

Here’s another thought worth pondering. Had the rider below been riding a motorcycle with ABS and ESC, he likely wouldn’t have crashed in the first place.

Helmet Usage: Illustration Two

In the video below, the slow motion portion shows the rider hitting his head on the pavement. Thank goodness he was also wearing a real helmet.

I’ll make the same point I did above. Had the rider been riding a motorcycle equipped with ABS and ESC, he probably wouldn’t have crashed.

It’s Your Call

Every rider has to make their own decision about whether to wear a helmet and what type to select. Whatever you decide, I hope you’ll choose to ride a motorcycle with ABS and ESC—because ABS and ESC will significantly reduce your chances of crashing in the first place.

Helmets won’t do that. 

NOTE: I’ve never (knowingly) watched a video on YouTube that shows a rider being seriously injured or killed. That does me no good, and I think it’s disrespectful to the rider and their family. But YouTube can be a great tool if used properly—because there’s usually a lesson buried in every motorcycle crash.

* This article is an excerpt from my book Motorcycle Hacks.

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About the Author

David Mixson writes about the topics other motorcycle books gloss over. He worked as a NASA engineer for over thirty years and is the author of three books.

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