8 Ball In The Wind

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Helmets Fail The Test

As many of you know, I hate this coconut that the state of Washington mandates I wear if I want to ride.  The Washington State Patrol tell me that if I wear a helmet that the manufacturer claims meets the federal standard, it will make me safer. Obviously they haven't researched the failure rate of helmets that have been tested over a nearly thirty year span of time.  Between 1980 and 2008, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (the federal agency within the Dept. of Transportation that sets the standards for vehicles and equipment) had independent laboratories test helmets the manufacturers claimed met the Federal Standard (they all had "DOT" stickers on them from the factory).  Over that twenty-eight year period of testing, what do you suppose the average failure rate of those "DOT" helmets were?


The average "DOT" helmet failure rate over that period was 61%.  That is almost two out of every three "DOT" helmets failed testing.  Yet we are still MANDATED to wear them.  Don't believe me, do the math yourself.  Between 1980 and 2008 there were 1,506 "DOT" helmets tested.  Of that number, only 583 passed the tests.  That means that 923 failed.  While some years testing were better than others, there were a couple of years with 100% failure rates.  The lowest fail percentage during that time was 30% in 2004.  So even in the best year of testing, there was still a nearly ONE IN THREE FAILURE RATE.

Yet we are still MANDATED to wear what amounts to defective equipment.  Think about it honestly, would you, if you had the choice, want to wear a safety device that effective 39% of the time?  If there is a 61% failure rate, then there can only be a 39% effective rate.

Even the "DOT" helmets that passed the tests are only certified to withstand lowspeed impacts.  The impact velocity helmets have to withstand to pass testing is a mere 13.4 MPH.  Even SNELL certified helmets (which must withstand slightly higher impact velocities than DOT requires) can not be expected to perform effectively at much greater speeds.  To quote one of their own people, Ed Becker; "Our standards call for impacts with a velocity of about 17.3 mph followed by a second impact at the same point on the helmet at about 14.8 mph.  A helmet that can take one of our headforms through these two impacts unscathed could probably handle a single impact somewhat greater than 17.3 mph but certainly no more than 23 mph." (emphasis added)

So even the manufacturers admit that effective helmets aren't going to be much good over about 23 mph.  Think about that the next time you are riding in a town or city and see the speed limit sign saying 25 MPH.  The "DOT" helmets we are mandated to wear only have an average effective rating of 39% at 13.4 MPH.  That effectiveness drops drastically at higher speeds.  Which begs the question: "We are forced to wear these, WHY!?!"

Even Harry Hurt, author of  "the most comprehensive motorcycle safety study of the 20th century" the famous (infamous in some circles) "Hurt Study", stated; "When those impact speeds get up to be 25 to 30 miles per hour, no helmet in the world is going to save you."  (Again, only emphasis added.)  Think about that the next time you HAVE to strap on that helmet.

Catch you on the road sometime...

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