Question: Do You Need a Helmet?

motorcycle helmet

Full-Face Motorcycle Helmet

Answer: If you never crash — you don’t need a helmet.

Alas, if only life were that simple.

Riders around the world have ideas, pro and con, about wearing protective helmets.

There is a certain physical and emotional sensation — like no other — that is engendered when not wearing a helmet while riding a motorbike. I certainly have done so in the past (albeit, rarely).

This writer respects any rider’s right to choose whether or not to strap on a helmet when he or she hits the road.

Having said that, and regardless of whether you choose to wear one or not, you should consider a few questions:

  1. Will rider skill prevent you from crashing?

  2. Will extensive riding experience prevent you from crashing?

  3. Will rider education prevent you from crashing?

Answers: Nix. Nay. No way.

Each of the above will reduce the chance of motorcycle mishaps, and in fact, may prevent quite a number of potential crashes. But there are other circumstances when even the most educated, most skilled, and most experienced rider will just not have enough time to react. For example, what would you do if a deer darted from out of nowhere into your handlebars? How about a vehicle that pulls in front of you at the last possible instant?

“Sure,” you can be especially watchful for deer and other wildlife at dawn and dusk. And “Yes,” you can be on “high alert” when you are approaching intersections. However, there is no guarantee that you will not be confronted with a circumstance that leaves you very little or no time to react.

Additionally, even very experienced riders might become inattentive at times…

In short, motorcycle accidents do happen — regardless of whether or not the rider is at fault.

So far, I have survived two potentially fatal mishaps that have resulted in destroyed motorcycles. Not only were helmets vital to my survival, but in the first case, as evidenced by the gash across the forward portion of my “full-face” helmet, that additional frontal protection prevented my face from getting sheared off by some very fast moving pavement.

Having ridden hundreds of thousands of miles, coast-to-coast, up and down, and all around North America has given me a lot of experience, but cannot prevent me from going down.

Are a person who likes statistics on helmet safety research? There’s plenty on the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website (part of the Department of Transportation). Here’s one citation from the report referenced below:

“As a result of these improvements, motorcycle helmets are currently estimated to be 37 percent effective in preventing rider fatalities, compared with the 1989 estimated effectiveness of 29 percent.”*

That means that with a modern motorcycle helmet, firmly attached to your head in an accident, you have over a third more likelihood of surviving the crash than if you did not wear a helmet.

So, do you need a helmet…?

Only YOU can decide.

Safe riding!


4 thoughts on “Question: Do You Need a Helmet?

  • Im new too biking about three months now,and enjoy every aspect of it. Ive dumped my bike a couple of times now…mostly ridin on stuff not made for ridin on,sand,mud,and almost always seen the danger before it happened..when it does happen it does so in a matter of seconds, i have been extremely fortunate that i managed too be able too walk away from every single one of them with no more than a scratch as for bike i wish i could say the same…i wear my helmet most of the time but i feel it does get claustraphobic at times and i seem to under the need to always look at my surroundings…but u never know when ur not gonna be that fortunate the next i hope i get in the habbit of wearing it all the time from now on….

  • With all respect for your article on helmets, I think you are missing the bigger picture. You view the helmet as an aftermath protection. I will dissagree. Allow me to give another point of view on helmets (full face only).
    The important thing when riding is to prevent a crash. There are two things that will help you acomplish that. 1. Eyes. You need to get as much input as you can at all time. 2. Brain. Use the nformation that you aquired to make sound judgments.
    Now to my point. There is no device out there (windshield, glasses…etc.) to privide more protection for your eyes as the windshield of a full face helmet. By protecting your eyes you increase the risk of a crash.
    Food for thought: How long it takes you to fully recover after a little bug hit you in the face? 1 second? How long it takes you to recover when a little bug or dust enter your eye? 1,2,3, seconds? If the answer is yes you are better man then I am.
    Now consider this. At a speed of 60 MPH you travel a little over 80 feet every second. So with every second lost you will be 80 + feet closer to “danger”. Less time to make a good recovery.
    My point is: Wear a good quality helmet and you will reduce the risk of crash. Then you don’t need to be so concerned with the real reason for what a helmet was designed for. When you crash, you are in God’s hands.

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