The Dangers of "Novelty" Motorcycle Helmets

An Increasing Concern
The high cost of gasoline is causing many motorists to consider switching to motorcycles or scooters to save money on their transportation costs. When purchasing a new motorcycle or scooter please consider purchasing a quality legal helmet to wear while riding.

Helmet Requirements
Scooter (under 50cc with other restrictions) riders are not legally required to wear a helmet while riding, but riding those vehicles in traffic on the roadways exposes the rider to possible head injury should they be involved in an accident. Motorcycle riders and passengers are required by state law to wear DOT approved helmets while riding. A certified motorcycle helmet is an important piece of safety equipment that can save the rider from serious injury or death in the event of a crash.

Novelty Helmets
Some motorcycle owners purchase "novelty" helmets to use while riding. A novelty helmet is described as a helmet that is similar in form to a motorcycle helmet designed for on-road use, but is not certified by a manufacturer to meet the minimum safety performance requirements. In general, these helmets have little or no impact-attenuating lining inside their shells, they are not made to withstand the penetration requirements, and their retention systems do not ensure that the helmets stay fastened on motorcycle riders' heads in the event of a crash. All certified motorcycle helmets are stamped with the "DOT" symbol.

Riders purchase these helmets due to their low cost, perceived better appearance, and their belief they can meet the helmet law requirement while not really wearing a helmet. Riders using these helmets do not meet the legal requirements for helmet usage and they will receive a summons for Failure to Wear Protective Headgear.

Novelty Helmets Proven Not Effective
In the April, 2007, issue of the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration Traffic Safety Facts publication they tested several novelty helmets against the federal required standards. Their conclusions, which showed the helmets did not perform well, are listed below.

The novelty helmets tested performed significantly worse than any helmet that complies with FMVSS No. 218. In general, noncompliant novelty helmets will not protect motorcycle riders during motorcycle crashes from either impact or penetration threats, and will not likely be retained on motorcycle riders' heads during crashes.

Novelty Helmets Provide False Security
Novelty helmets present motorcycle riders with a higher risk for skull fracture and brain injury when compared to certified helmets. A motorcycle rider who wears a novelty helmet during a motorcycle crash in which the rider falls to the ground and the rider's head contacts a rigid body such as a paved road will likely sustain fatal head injuries. Motorcycle riders who wear novelty helmets and believe that "something is better than nothing" have a false sense of security regarding the protection afforded them by helmets not designed or manufactured to comply with the federal safety standards.