How to Identify Unsafe Motorcycle Helmets

There’s no doubt about it—helmets save lives. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that, since 2002, more than 25,000 lives have been saved by wearing motorcycle helmets.

To help protect the lives of motorcycle riders, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) requires that all motorcycle helmets sold in the United States meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 218. This standard defines minimum levels of performance that helmets must meet to protect the head and brain in a crash.

Unfortunately, not all helmets are created equal.

What to check for when buying a helmet

The following tips are from NHTSA.

  • Weight of helmet
    • Depending on design, unsafe helmets can weigh only one pound or less. Helmets meeting FMVSS No. 218 generally weigh about three pounds.
  • Inner liner thickness
    • Helmets meeting the minimum federal safety standard typically have an expanded polystyrene inner liner that is at least ¾-inch thick.
  • Quality chin strap and rivets
    • Helmets meeting the DOT safety standard have sturdy chin straps with solid rivets.
  • DOT certification label
    • Helmets that meet FMVSS No. 218 have certification labels on the back of the helmet.
  • Manufacturer’s labeling
    • Manufacturers are required to place a label on or inside the helmet stating the manufacturer’s name, size, month and year of manufacture, and instructions to the purchaser which includes construction materials and warnings regarding the care and use of the helmet.
  • Snell or ANSI label
    • Labels located inside the helmet showing that a helmet meets the standards of nonprofit organizations such as SNELL or the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) are good indicators that the helmet also meets FMVSS No. 218.

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