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Could Your Motorcycle Helmet Let You Down?

Motorcycle helmets are the best way to prevent a serious head injury. They saved approximately 1,699 lives in 2012, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA).

However, not all helmets are created equal.

In a study of motorcycle crash victims treated at a Maryland hospital, 50 percent of those wearing a substandard helmet (also called a novelty helmet) received a head injury compared to 23 percent of motorcyclists wearing helmets certified by the Department of Transportation (DOT).

The NHTSA also tested seven popular substandard helmets to determine how they compare to DOT certified helmets. The results showed that the novelty helmets fail to adequately protect riders. Accordingly, the agency concluded that “motorcycle riders who wear substandard helmets and believe that ‘something is better than nothing’ have a false sense of security regarding the protection afforded them by these helmets as compared to certified helmets.”

Fortunately, it is now easier to verify that you are wearing a safe helmet. Under new product labeling standards, motorcycle helmets manufactured after May 2013 are required to have labels containing the manufacturer or brand name, the model designation, the “DOT” symbol, and verification that they are “FMVSS No. 218 Certified.”

Helmets can also be subject to product safety recalls. The NHTSA will issue a recall notice if a helmet does not meet federal safety requirements and is not safe to wear. You can sign up for alerts at