The Helmet Controversy

The Helmet Controversy

By Diane Ortiz – President and founder of the Big Apple Motorcycle School

On Facebook and other social media there is still controversy over helmet types and use. There are some that swear by the minimum “skid lid” saying that they feel confined by a full-face helmet. Others, myself included, wear a full-face, high-quality helmet all the time and feel naked without it.  Both sides often feel strongly that their choice is the best. So what influences a person’s choice regarding helmet use?

Risk is an ever-present element of motorcycle riding.  It’s a given. Life is also a risk and we do things every day, often without a second thought, to minimize that risk. We wear appropriate clothing when it’s cold out, brush our teeth to avoid cavities, don’t drink and drive, wear our seat belts and keep our vehicles in good running condition. Head injuries are still the number one reason motorcyclists die in crashes.  Wearing a helmet is still the number one way to minimize that risk. But often riders wear helmets that have very little crash protection or don’t wear any at all in states that don’t require it.

The Institute for Highway Safety research says that helmets are about 37 percent effective in preventing motorcycle deaths and about 67 percent effective in preventing brain injuries. It’s clear – helmets save lives.

From observing many different types of riders through the years, many say that helmet choice is determined more by peer pressure and the type of motorcycle you ride than anything else. If you look at photos in the motorcycle magazines of group rides and club events you’ll notice that many of the riders in the group are dressed in similar gear from head to toe. But the helmet controversy and the stereotypes continue as well. If you ride a cruiser folks often assume you have tattoos, wear leathers, have fringe, have loud pipes and wear a half helmet. That is not the case anymore! Similarly, sport bike riders don’t all do wheelies, white-line, and ride over the speed limit. We shouldn’t be categorized by the type of bike we ride. However, every rider should be concerned with risk reduction. Every rider should make an informed decision about helmet use and not be influenced by peer pressure.

Minimizing risk will make you a better, and safer, rider. Does that mean you need to wear the best helmet you can afford regardless of what your friends do?  It’s up to you to decide. Leather outerwear, often thought of as an essential part of the motorcycle culture, now comes with high tech features that previously were only available in textile products. High visibility, reflective clothing/gear is now being incorporated into all types of attire and has become increasingly popular.

Whatever you do, make this the year you answer the challenge to do more to minimize risk and be an even better motorcyclist!


Ride Safe!


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