So there's good news and bad news. The good news is that between 1994 and 2012, the total number of motor vehicle fatalities decreased by 15 percent. The bad news is that during that same timeframe, the number of motorcycle fatalities in particular doubled. In fact, statistics show that a motorcyclist is 30 times more likely to die in a crash than an automobile passenger, with traumatic head injuries being the top cause of death. And according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), much of the blame lies in substandard motorcycle helmets that are marketed as road-safe, but actually little more than decorations.
NHTSA officials recently proposed a new rule that calls for a boost in safety standards and labeling requirements for motorcycle helmets. Specifically, they're gunning for those increasingly popular novelty helmets that may look cool, but fall short of safety requirements put in place by the US Department of Transportation. Riders - particularly new riders who don't know any better - love them in part because they're cheaper than DOT-compliant helmets. Oh, but they can end up costing a buyer far more than he or she bargained for. Despite the fact that they're not intended for on-road use, they're used by upward of 27 percent of motorcycle riders and passengers in states with universal motorcycle helmet laws.
If adopted, the NHTSA's proposed rule would serve to make it easier for cops to spot non-compliant helmets. As of right now, DOT-certified helmets are must feature a decal that say so. Trouble is, bogus certification stickers are all over non-compliant helmets in states with universal helmet laws. And wearers get away with the ruse because, let's face it, most law enforcement agencies just don't have the time or resources to individually test every helmet on the road.
So, the proposed rule will require all DOT-approved helmets to have easily identifiable and features. For instance, compliant helmets will be required to cover a fixed amount of a user's skull, and to have a minimum helmet shell and lining thickness that can be measured with a probe.
"Wearing a helmet that meets DOT standards can literally mean the difference between life and death," said NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind. "Our proposal ensures that when motorcyclists put on a helmet it offers that life-saving protection."
We here at E3 Spark Plugs want all of our motorcycle-riding family, friends and fans to be safe on the roadways. So skip the novelty noggin protectors and insist upon the real DOT-compliant deal when shopping for motorcycle helmets.