Here in North Carolina, we've had a universal helmet law in place since 1968, meaning we've now seen generations of licensed motorcyclists come to not only accept, but appreciate how head protection can prevent serious and even fatal injuries in the event of an accident.
Interestingly enough, however, the U.S. Department of Transportation is now growing increasingly concerned about the types of helmets that motorcyclists here in the Tar Heel State and across the nation are actually wearing, arguing that the so-called novelty helmets favored by so many riders actually present a very serious and very real safety issue.
What exactly are novelty helmets?
For those unfamiliar with novelty helmets, they are smaller and thinner than traditional motorcycle helmets, and have a retro-like look about them that appeals to many motorcyclists.
Why is the DOT so concerned about novelty helmets?
According to agency officials, novelty helmets not only cover only a smaller portion of a motorcyclist's skull, but are also constructed of a much thinner material that is not designed to absorb the force of a high-speed motorcycle accident. Indeed, disclaimers affixed to many novelty helmets indicate that they are not intended for use on the highway.
If novelty helmets are so much less safe, why are so many people buying them?
Experts indicate that its somewhat unclear as to why so many people are buying novelty helmets. Some theories include that motorcyclists may mistakenly believe that they are just as safe as standard DOT-approved helmets, or that they are simply seen as a more comfortable and fashionable alternative.
What exactly is the DOT going to do about novelty helmets?
Calling them a contributing factor to the disproportionately high number of motorcycle accident fatalities, the DOT recently published a proposal that would essentially enhance the existing definition of what compromises a satisfactory helmet (i.e., thickness of liner, compression ability, etc.).
This step, agency officials argue, will not only reduce fatal crashes, but also make these substandard helmets more readily identifiable to both motorcyclists and state officials.
Stay tuned for updates on this important story …