Motorcycle Helmets


  • Wearing the proper motorcycle helmet saves lives and reduces concussions and other head injuries.
  • In 2015, 1,772 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, review the Standard for Protective Headgear
  • 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 2015, 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 2008, Motorcycle Helmet Use Laws. NHTSA Headquarters, Traffic Safety Programs, 400 Seventh Street, S.W., Washington, DC 20590.