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Why Are Helmets Important?

Riding a bike gives riders a sense of freedom on the open road. However, there are serious risks involved in riding without a helmet. A motorcycle does not provide the structural protection that a car offers to keep drivers safe in the event of an accident. Motorcyclists need to take extra precautions to protect their bodies. The most important place to start with is the protection of the head. 

Also, if you decide to head to the track, whether it is an autocross in a large parking lot or a time-trial event at a closed-course race track, you will need more than just your car keys and driving skills. You are going to need a helmet. Most sanctioning bodies from drag strips to local autocross events require some sort of certified helmet.

What Should I look for in a Helmet?

There are various choices to consider when purchasing a helmet. The first is the certification. You 're going to want to look for a Snell SA rating for most auto racing enthusiasts. You should understand how helmets are classified, and when you shop around you can see a few different decals in helmets.

A D.O.T. decal is really motorcycle helmets on the public roads. You will see an M rating which is again for motorcycles and you will also see an SA rating. The SA rating also comes with a year associated with it. The year listed on the decal isn’t the year the helmet was manufactured, Snell's standards were associated with that particular year. You may also run across F.I.A. ratings that come out of Formula 1 and Europe.

  • Thick inner liner – Helmets complying with the minimum Federal safety standards usually have a firm, polystyrene foam inner liner about one inch thick. If a helmet has soft foam padding or a bare plastic shell with no padding at all, it's not a safe helmet. 
  • Strong chin straps and rivets – the helmet should have sturdy chin straps with solid rivets to keep the helmet securely in place on the wearer's head. 
  • Helmet Weight – Helmets complying with federal safety standards usually weigh about three pounds. Lightweight helmets are typically unsafe. 
  • Department of Transportation (DOT) Sticker – Helmets complying with Federal Safety Standards must have a sticker on the outside of the helmet with the letter "DOT" attesting that the helmet meets the standards set out in FMVSS 218.
  • Snell or American National Standards Institute Sticker – A helmet that satisfies safety requirements may be additionally certified by private, non-profit organizations such as Snell or the American National Standards Institute, in which case it would have a certification sticker.
  • Manufacturer's label – FMVSS 218 requires manufacturers of helmets to place a tag inside the helmet indicating the manufacturer's name, model, size, month and year of use of the helmet, construction materials, and owner's information. If the helmet does not have the label, it should be considered unsafe.

National Highway Safety Administration studies of non-fatal motorcycle injuries show that riders who did not wear a helmet had higher health care costs, more prolonged hospitalizations, longer recovery periods, and increased loss of quality of life.

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