Motorcycle Helmets


  • Wearing the proper motorcycle helmet saves lives and reduces concussions and other head injuries.
  • In 2008, 1,829 motorcyclists nationwide were saved by wearing their helmets.1
  • Motorcycle helmets are estimated to be 37% effective in preventing fatal injuries to motorcycle riders and 42% effective for passengers.
  • Helmets are 67% effective in preventing brain injuries in crashes; riders without helmets are three times more likely to have a brain injury as a result of a crash than helmeted riders.2
  • Head injury is the leading cause of death in motorcycle crashes.2
  • Helmet use resulted in a savings of approximately $19.5 billion in economic costs from 1984 to 2002. If all motorcyclists had worn helmets during this time period, an additional $14.8 billion would have been saved.2
  • NYS law requires the use of motorcycle helmets for both drivers and passengers. Protective eyewear is also required. Helmets and eye protection are also required for Class A and B mopeds, those with a top speed of 20 mph or more.
  • According to NYS Vehicle and Traffic Law, Section 381 ( ), requires helmets to meet federal motor vehicle safety standards, section 571.218. Look for the US DOT sticker on the helmet to identify ones that meet the standard.
  • 'Novelty' helmets do not meet the required standard, and, therefore, do not provide sufficient protection.
  • All helmets [legally] sold in the U.S. must meet the US DOT and Consumer Product Safety Commission Standards. The Snell Memorial Foundation, Inc. is a non-profit organization that conducts independent testing on helmets that have been certified by these other agencies. In order to be Snell certified, a helmet must pass more rigorous safety inspections. For more information about the Snell standards, go to:
  • The diagrams below show the impact areas on crash-involved motorcycle helmets. (Source: Dietmar Otte, Medizinische Hochschule Hannover, Abteilung Verkehrsunfallforschung, Germany.) Notice the significant crash impact in the chin-bar area. Utilizing an open face (3/4) helmet or a "shorty" (1/2) helmet limits the protection that could be available to your head.
  • A diagram of the impact areas on crash-involved motorcycle helmets.
  • The diagrams are referenced in, Motorcycle Accident Cause Factors and Identification of Countermeasures, Volume 1: Technical Report, Hurt, H.H., Ouellet, J.V. and Thom, D.R., Traffic Safety Center, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California 90007, Contract No. DOT HS-5-01160, January 1981 (Final Report), a report on the causes and effects of motorcycle crashes and safe riding strategies. The same study is quoted in the Motorcycle Safety Foundation rider safety courses.
  • Full text of the document is available through:
  • National Technical Information Service
    5285 Port Royal Road
    Springfield, Virginia 22161
    Phone: (703) 487-4600


  • 1. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Traffic Safety Data Facts 2008, Motorcycles (DOT HS 811 159) National Center for Statistics and Analysis.1200 New Jersey Avenue SE. Washington, DC 20590.
  • 2. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, State Legislative Fact Sheets, Motorcycle Helmet Use Laws. NHTSA Headquarters, Traffic Safety Programs, 400 Seventh Street, S.W., Washington, DC 20590.
  • 3. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (2005), Traffic Safety Facts, Laws, Motorcycle Helmet Use Laws. NHTSA Headquarters, Traffic Safety Programs, 400 Seventh Street, S.W., Washington, DC 20590.