8 Ball In The Wind

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Motorcycle Helmets...37% Effective

I've been trying to get my head around a few things relating to this whole helmet issue.  The trouble is, the more I look into it, the more I oppose mandatory helmet laws.  Simply put, the facts used by the regulators and mandators, just doesn't make logical sense to me.

For one thing, NHTSA proudly proclaims that motorcycle helmets are 37% effective.  With an effective rating that low, I surely wouldn't be boasting about it.  If it was 73%, I could almost go along with being proud of the numbers.  But I would be ashamed of an effectiveness of only 37%.  Wouldn't you?

Then, there is the impact tests that helmets must be able to withstand in order to comply with FMVSS-218.  Helmets must be able to withstand two impacts.  The average speed of impact needed to meet the standard is 13.4 MPH.  The height the helmet is dropped, or conversely the anvil is dropped, is 6 feet.  So, basically the same distance as if I fall down wearing my helmet.  The only problem with that is, the leading contributing factor in motorcycle crashes is speeding.  So if your helmet can withstand an impact at 13.4 MPH, how does it fair at 70, or 80 MPH?  The manufacturers claim that it is highly unlikely that a motorcyclist will have a head-on impact with a solid object during a crash at or above freeway speeds.  I'm not sure I buy into that.  When you add into the mix that between 1980 and 2008, fully 61% of helmets tested FAILED, do we really want these things mandated to be worn?  Even Professor Harry Hurt, author of the famous Hurt Study stated during an interview in 1992 that: "When impact speeds get to be 25-30 MPH, there isn't a helmet in the world that's gonna save you."  That is coming from one of the leading proponents of motorcycle helmet laws.

I also looked at a study comparing facial injuries and skull fractures in fatal motorcycle accidents.  According to this study, there is a higher degree of fatal skull fractures amongst injured motorcyclists wearing full face helmets with a rigid face guard than those wearing a full face helmet with a flexible face guard, or an open face helmet.  Although, while the wearers of the last two types of helmets have a significantly higher rate of facial fractures they have a higher survival rate than those wearing a rigid face guard full face helmet, their rate of brain injuries is lower.  As is the rate of fatal skull fractures.

So what do we have here?  The government proudly proclaims helmets to be 37% effective in saving lives.  Helmets must be able to withstand two thumps of 13.4 MPH to withstand the impact test.  So in theory at any rate, it might be able to withstand a single impact slightly higher.  Only about 39% of helmets are historically shown to pass testing since 1980.  And, some types of helmets are more likely to cause a fatal skull fracture because of their design.

But what really has me not wanting to be forced to wear a helmet, is the fact that NHTSA admits without any qualms that manufacturers are the ones who certify their helmets meet the standard.  The manufacturer certifies the helmet meets the standard when they apply the DOT label and sticker on the helmet.  Now get this, they don't have to test the helmet before certifying it.  They simply have to have a good faith belief that the helmet meets or exceeds the requirements of FMVSS-218.  If one of the contracted laboratories that does the testing buys that helmet and it fails the test, ONLY THEN does the certification of the helmet end.  How many times have you heard of a motorcycle helmet recall?  With a 61% failure rate, how many helmets out there being used today aren't able to even meet the minimum standards of testing?

Then to top it off, a helmet should be replaced after 3 to 5 years of use.  Depending on how often it is used.  Because as it wears to the shape of your head, it becomes less effective until it is so ineffective after 3 years that it requires replacement.  So, if that helmet is only 37% effective when it is new, how effective is it after 3 years?  Would you really be satisfied being forced to wear an impact reduction device that is only 37% effective?  Think about that, and answer it for yourselves.

Catch you on the road sometime...

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