Each state has its own law, and some will require you to wear a DOT helmet and give you a ticket if you don’t have one. The following article will tell you all that you need to know about helmet safety laws and give you some useful tips to ensure that the helmet you got can keep you protected while riding your bike.
What are DOT-approved helmets?
Some states require the rider to wear helmets that meet the federal standard for safety. Even if you live in a state that does not require DOT-approved helmets, it would still be very wise of you to consider wearing one since the safety it offers is far greater than the standard and cheaper helmets that could break easily on impact.
DOT stands for the Department of Transportation and only motorcycle helmets that are approved by them are proved to help prevent fatalities. While there may be riders that choose not to wear helmets fearing that they may impair their vision or hearing, government studies have shown that DOT-approved helmets do not affect the performance of the rider.
By now you’re probably wondering what makes these helmets so special, and for starters, they meet the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 218. It may sound complicated, but in simple terms, it refers to the minimum level of performance that is required out of a helmet to protect your head and brain adequately in case of a crash.
A DOT-approved helmet has to undergo many rigorous tests before it can be sold to you. The first criterion is the amount of impact it can handle, the total capacity for absorbing shock so that the impact of an accident does not go to your skull and brain but rather gets carried to the exterior surface of the helmet.
Then there’s the penetration criterion, namely the ability of the helmet to withstand a blow from something that is sharp. The retention of the helmet refers to the chin strap durability since it needs to be made of quality materials that have the ability to stay securely fastened to your chin and not let the helmet fly off your head in case of a high-speed crash.
Finally, there’s the peripheral vision criterion which stipulates that the helmet needs to offer the rider a minimum visibility of 105 degrees on each side. Thus, you can rest assured knowing that with a DOT-approved helmet, you will be much safer on your motorcycle and able to withstand a wider range of impacts if you ever find yourself in a crash.
Apart from the DOT sticker, you should also take a look inside the helmet to see if it meets the standard of non-profit safety organizations such as the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), ECE or Snell. All these organizations are dedicated to the research, development, testing, and education of helmet safety standards.
While there may be instances where you can find a novelty helmet that comes with a fake DOT sticker on the back of the helmet, it is very unlikely to find one that has the ANSI, Snell, or ECE tags on the inside as well.
Additional safety features
Any helmet that meets the DOT standard will need to have an inner liner that is at least one inch in thickness, and made from high-quality polystyrene that is comfortable and firm enough to handle impact without hurting your head.
While the liner may not always be visible to you, you can check how thick it is by taking a closer look on the inside of the helmet and feeling it gently with your fingers. An alternative that is unsafe will utilize soft foam padding at best, and in worst cases no padding at all.
Helmets that meet the DOT requirements must weigh at least three pounds, sometimes even more than that. One way to spot if a product is unsafe is to take it in your hands and inspect its weight. Unsafe helmets can weigh less than a pound. Helmets that are DOT-approved should always feel sturdy and robust in your hands.
It’s not just the absence of a DOT sticker on the back that can be a dead giveaway that the helmet is not officially approved, but also its design and style. Novelty helmets which have a sleeker look and fit closer to the head, don’t provide the best protection nor do they comply with the state or federal laws.
The Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 218 dictates that there should be nothing anywhere on the surface of your helmet above two-tenths of an inch. This allows for visor fastenings to be used, but spikes or anything that would protrude from the helmet should be a clear sign that the helmet in question is not safe.
Even if your local laws are not very strict when it comes to the safety that the helmet should offer, it is always best to seek out a helmet that is certified. It’s not just that head injuries are the top causes of death in motorcycle accidents, but a rider that does not wear a helmet is three times more likely to suffer brain injuries in the event of an accident.
There is also the fact that a good-quality helmet that is DOT-approved is quite affordable nowadays, so it is unlikely that you will find it difficult to get one. They offer a very easy way to protect your head and your life while riding your motorcycle.
Can you remove the sticker?
You can remove the sticker that is usually found on the outside of a DOT-approved helmet, but before you do that you need to make certain that you have an internal certificate label or sticker so that you can avoid getting a fine if you get turned over by an officer. The official stickers are the one on the inside and have a serial number.
With that said, it is still best to leave the sticker on since in most cases it is not an inconvenience and it should not impact your enjoyment of the helmet in any way. Furthermore, if you ever want to resell the helmet, or want to take it back to the shop you’ve bought it from, it will be best for it to still be on.
Some brands choose to add the DOT stickers on the inside under the lining so that it does not affect the look and design of the helmet. As long as there are stickers on the inside, you should be safe to remove the one on the outside. You should never remove the sticker on the inside, or the one on the outside if there is no additional one left on your helmet.