The Evolution of Motorcycle Helmet Design

By now, it’s common knowledge that a helmet can reduce the risk and severity of head injuries in a motorcycle crash. According to estimates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motorcyclists not wearing a helmet are 3 times more likely to suffer traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Helmeted riders are approximately 40% less likely to be killed in a collision, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

In fact, less than 4% of North Carolina motorcycle accidents end in fatality on average. In North Carolina, it is mandatory for all motorcyclists to wear a safety helmet. Fortunately for bikers, the evolution of motorcycle helmet design has included much advancement in safety.

Mike Lewis Attorneys believes that bikers who are injured by the negligence of other motorists or defective part manufacturing deserve compensation for their pain and suffering. If you or someone you love has been involved in a motorcycle accident, the victim may have grounds for legal action.

Find out about your legal options. Fill out our FREE Case Evaluation form to the left to get started.

Motorcycle Helmet Design Evolution: An Interesting Origin Story

The origin of the motorcycle helmet is actually a fascinating story. Neurosurgeon Hugh Cairns was one of the doctors attending to Lawrence of Arabia during the coma that led to his death. The coma was caused by an unfortunate accident while riding an early model of a motorcycle.

Cairns, provoked by the unnecessary loss of life, began a long study of head injuries among motorcycle dispatch riders in the military. Cairns’ research led to widespread use of motorcycle helmets among both military and civilian motorcyclists.

Government Standards for Motorcycle Helmets

In June of 1967, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation promoted a standard requiring each state to create mandatory helmet-use laws. This standard was created in the Highway Safety Act of 1966. While not every state has enacted compulsory helmet laws even today, 1966 was an important year in the evolution of motorcycle helmet design.

The National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, also passed in that pivotal year, created the Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) which are now one of the bodies governing the standards of helmet design.

The other is the Snell Memorial Foundation, a non-profit created specifically to establish high-quality safety standards for helmets. The foundation honors the name of William “Pete” Snell, a popular sports car racer who was killed in 1956, after his helmet failed to protect his head.

The current legal safety standards for helmets are named under:

  • DOT FMVSS 218
  • Snell M2005 & M2010

Under these standards, helmet designs are tested stringently. It is imperative for bikers to wear a helmet if they wish to reduce their risk of sustaining a severe head injury.

Types of Modern Motorcycle Helmets

All motorcycle helmets are designed for a sole purpose: reducing the risk and severity of head injuries. One thing all helmets have in common is the chin strap, which is essential to achieving a snug, secure fit. Without the proper fit, a motorcycle helmet is not as effective at preventing or reducing the severity of a head injury.

Types of modern motorcycle helmets include:

  • Full-face: covers the entire head, including the base of the skull, as well as the chin; includes a swivel visor
  • Off-road / Motocross: covers the entire head with an extended, protruding visor and prominent chin bar; includes an open face to accommodate goggles
  • Flip-up / Modular: similar to the full-face helmet, a modular helmet covers the entire head including the base of the skull and chin; however, the chin bar and visor flip up to allow access to most of the face
  • 3/4 helmet / Open-face: these helmets cover the ears, cheeks and base of the skull but do not include a chin bar; snap-on visors are popular with this type of helmet
  • Half-helmet / “Shorty”: the half-helmet provides the minimum protection required by law in most parts of the U.S. and covers only the top of the skull, lacking protection for the cheeks, ears, eyes or base of the skull; goggles are popular with bikers who use half-helmets

It should be noted that there are many other models of “novelty” helmets that are not certified and are not suitable as head protection. Some bikers may wear these to appear as if they are complying with helmet laws, but they are in fact only risking severe head trauma and even death.

Helmet Safety Features

Through the evolution of motorcycle helmet design, most modern helmets are constructed using plastics, fiberglass, and reinforcement materials like Kevlar and carbon fiber. The outer shell is designed to prevent the helmet from being penetrated. On the interior, all legally-approved motorcycle helmets contain energy-absorbing foam called Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) that protects the brain and skull during impact, allowing them to come to a gradual stop. Many also contain interior fabrics designed to cool and comfort the head.

Other safety features that are designed to reduce the risk of accidents and injuries include:

  • Ear protection
  • Face shields
  • Intercoms
  • Ventilation materials
  • Visors

The color of a helmet can also help increase safety. In a study conducted and published by peer-reviewed medical journal BMJ, it was found that bikers who wore a plain white helmet versus a black one had a 24% lower risk of being injured or killed in a motorcycle accident. It was also noted that bikers wearing high visibility clothing and white helmets were more likely to have safety on the brain.

Contact Our North Carolina Motorcycle Accident Lawyers

Keeping safety top-of-mind is essential for bikers – but that doesn’t mean they can always avoid an accident. Unfortunately, other drivers, road conditions and even the weather can contribute to a motorcycle crash, and a helmet can’t prevent every injury.

If you have been injured or lost a loved one in a North Carolina motorcycle accident, Mike Lewis Attorneys can give you the legal guidance you need. You deserve to know your legal options.

When it comes to motorcycle accidents, our legal team has the experience and determination to investigate the circumstances of your accident and build a powerful case on your behalf, should you have a claim. We are proud to provide comprehensive legal services to our North Carolina neighbors in the following areas:

  • Winston-Salem
  • Greensboro
  • Walkertown
  • Clemmons
  • Lewisville
  • Jamestown
  • High Point
  • Oak Ridge
  • Elon
  • …and the surrounding communities

Find out if you have a case today. Call 866.299.1769 to speak with our staff.

Send your details directly to our attorneys. Fill out the FREE Case Evaluation form at the top of this page to get started.