NHTSA Tightens Standards for Safe Motorcycle-Helmet Certification

With scenery that includes the blue ocean, green hills, farm country, small towns and endless woods, Connecticut motorcyclists have lots of beautiful routes from which to choose. While it is tempting to take the sharp turns and roller-coaster-like hills at full speed with the wind through your hair, think seriously about the risk of not wearing a helmet.

Helmet laws vary by state. In Connecticut, helmets are not required of all drivers and passengers, only those under 18 or operating their bikes with training permits. However, just because it's not the law for an adult driver with a regular license to wear headgear, the statistics are hard to argue with.

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, helmets are about 37 percent effective in preventing motorcycle-operator fatalities (41 percent for passengers). In fact, NHTSA reports that in 2008 more than 1,800 motorcyclists' lives were saved by wearing helmets.

To heighten the chance that a U.S. motorcyclist will buy a high-quality helmet, NHTSA has issued extensive federal regulations establishing motorcycle-helmet quality certification standards. No one may manufacture, sell or import a motorcycle helmet that does not meet the NHTSA standards and violation of this law can bring expensive fines ($5,000 per helmet up to $16,050,000 cumulative total for that helmet design).

The agency does not maintain a list of helmets that meet the standard. Rather, the manufacturers must comply with the safety regulations and certify such by affixing official stickers to their helmets. NHTSA randomly tests helmets available for sale in the U.S. market for compliance and investigates further when appropriate.

In May 2011, after a two-year review process, NHTSA amended its motorcycle-helmet certification regulations by making it harder to create fake certification stickers and easier to recognize whether helmets are certified. The new rules will also fine-tune required performance tests by clarifying appropriate procedures.

The revised rule will take effect on May 13, 2013, giving manufacturers time to become familiar with the new requirements. In the meantime, be sure if you purchase a motorcycle helmet that it has an official certification sticker from the manufacturer.

Helmets are all about protecting riders and passengers from serious head and traumatic brain injuries in accidents. Anyone who drives or rides a cycle should seriously reconsider helmet use if it has not been a regular practice. If you are injured in a car accident while on your motorcycle, consult with a personal injury attorney right away to learn how to protect your rights and whether you can recover for your injuries and damaged motorcycle. Be sure to discuss with the lawyer how your helmet held up in the crash and whether it was compliant with federal safety law.

Similarly, if your loved one lost his or her life in a motorcycle accident, contact an experienced wrongful death attorney to discuss whether you have legal remedies.