Experienced riders understand the importance of wearing a motorcycle helmet. But if you’re new to riding, you’re probably just beginning to learn about riding gear. Helmets are critical in preventing serious head injuries or even saving your life in collisions. This quick guide explains how helmets protect you and what to look for when you’re shopping for one.

How Motorcycle Helmets Have Saved Lives

How do you measure the protection that motorcycle helmets provide? A couple of statistics from Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety prove their effectiveness. Helmets lowered head injury risks by 69% and the risk of death by 42%.

Of course, you can also see what happens when helmet use isn’t required. Michigan partially repealed its helmet use laws in 2012, allowing those meeting certain requirements to forgo wearing them. Afterward, motorcycle crash head injuries rose in Michigan by 14%. Similarly, crash-related skull fractures rose by 38% after the new law took effect.

So, how do motorcycle helmets offer crash protection? Each helmet has a hard outer shell to diffuse energy from impacts. It also has an inner liner made from lightweight expanded polystyrene foam. This EPS liner increases impact duration, further slowing down energy transfer from a collision. Both the shell and liner significantly reduce impact forces before they reach your head.

Why Full Face Motorcycle Helmets Are Some of the Safest

There’s no question that motorcycle helmets save lives. But how do you pick one that offers the best protection? Helmets come in several different types, including full face and modular. Examining these designs can show you which ones are safest for riding.

Full-face helmets cover the entire head and come with an attached visor or face shield. The outer shell is a single piece that includes the chin bar. On modular helmets, the chin bar is hinged so it can be raised and lowered. This allows the wearer to grab a quick bite, drink or breath of fresh air when not riding. But that hinge is a weak point. And collision forces can make the chin bar open. But full face helmets remain intact.

Other Motorcycle Helmet Shopping Tips

Helmet design is key, but finding the right size and shape is also important. Sizing is fairly easy: All you need to do is measure your head’s circumference with a cloth measuring tape. Record that measurement and compare it with the manufacturer’s size chart. Riders with smaller heads can rest easy – there are plenty of small motorcycle helmets that deliver solid protection. Helmets also come in three shapes – round oval, intermediate oval and long oval. You’ll want to have someone help you take a picture of your head from above to determine its shape.

High-quality crash protection is key, but that’s especially true about helmets. Statistics prove that you’re more likely to survive collisions without serious head injury. Full face helmets offer the most thorough protection. A proper fit ensures that you get the full benefit from your helmet. Choose a reputable motorcycle parts dealer to find a style and model that meets your needs.