Selecting the Right Motorcycle Helmet Saves Lives

In the 1969 classic film Easy Rider, Jack Nicholson dons a football helmet to ride a motorcycle. The scene is meant to be humorous, but it also reflects a genuine problem: Many Nevada motorcyclists do not wear the right helmets for the job. The wrong helmet can leave the rider nearly as vulnerable as no helmet at all.

Nevada law requires all motorcyclists to wear helmets that meet federal Department of Transportation (DOT) guidelines. Such helmets are indicated by a DOT sticker on the back - however, many "novelty" helmets bear the DOT sticker even though they do not in fact meet the federal guidelines.

To be sure, check the inside of the helmet for further specifications, and look for a helmet that certifies that it meets the regulations contained in 49 C.F.R. § 571.218. Helmets certified by either of two private foundations, the Snell Memorial Foundation and the American National Standards Institute, can also be relied upon to comply with Nevada law.

Despite protestations from those who enjoy riding without helmets, the evidence is overwhelming that proper helmet use saves lives and prevents injuries. Take Kentucky and Louisiana, for example: Both states repealed their helmet laws in the late 1990s with similar results. In both states, helmet use dropped from nearly full compliance to the 50 percent range following repeal. The rate of motorcycle fatalities then rose dramatically in both states-37 percent higher than the national average in Kentucky and 75 percent higher than the national average in Louisiana. Those mortality rates were more than double what they had been with the helmet law in place.