Whether you’re bicycling, rollerblading, or riding a motorcycle, safety gear is important to prevent scrapes, bruises, and even severe injuries such as brain damage. In these situations, the most important piece of safety gear is the helmet. Helmets not only provide an extra layer to absorb impact forces, but they also cushion the skull and protect it from crushing forces. In short, helmets can and do save lives.
Despite the obvious advantages of helmets, certain states fail to require their use for bicyclists. Under Tennessee law, helmets are not required for cyclists except when the cyclist is under the age of sixteen. However, just because a helmet isn’t mandatory doesn’t mean you should pedal your bike without one.
Buying for Safety, Fit, and Comfort
The majority of bicycle helmets use expanded polystyrene (EPS)—hardened styrofoam commonly used to make disposable picnic coolers—as the cushioning medium. This foam works well to absorb impact forces, but when crushed it does not recover. This foam lining is then covered with collapsible and spongy pads to provide comfort and fit. These helmets are generally similar to one another and follow the same safety standards.
However, federal standards do not address specific designs, meaning that makes and models can vary drastically depending on use, shape, and durability. Therefore, when choosing the perfect helmet for your needs, you must take the following factors into consideration.
- Shape. A smoothly rounded outer shell with no sharp ribs or snag points is an ideal shape for a bicycle helmet. The more vents or points a helmet has can limit the effectiveness of the interior foam. These additions can also increase the risk of the helmet snagging or being pulled off during a collision.
- Straps. When choosing a helmet, you want to pay attention to the width and durability of the straps. Skinny straps are less comfortable than thicker straps, as they can dig into the skin. Buckles on thin straps can also be less effective than thicker straps because the securing mechanisms are smaller. The most important thing to consider when examining the straps is how well they hold. Can you pull the helmet off while it’s buckled? Do the straps allow you to twist or rotate the helmet? Is there any movement you can make where the straps permit the helmet to expose areas of your head, leaving them unprotected? If so, you need to find another helmet with more durable straps.
- Comfort. The last thing you want is a helmet that doesn’t feel comfortable. When your helmet doesn’t feel right, you’re more likely to leave it at home or “forget” it. Therefore, when searching for your ideal helmet, focus on ventilation, fit, and proper amount of cushioning. Do not be afraid to try on your selection and wear it for a few minutes to determine the feel. If you think something in the design may irritate you, trust your instincts and move on to a different model.
- Safety. Bicycle helmet safety standards in the United States are mandated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). These mandates address a helmet’s ability to reduce G-force, withstand a reasonable impact force, and prevent strap tears. Every helmet sold in the U.S. must meet the same CPSC standards. This means that a $300 helmet is not necessarily safer than a cheaper model—although it may be more comfortable and have a better shape.
For more information on helmet use and bicycle safety, please feel free to browse our extensive collection of informative articles. Our library covers topics from bicycling to motorcycling, to collision liability. Take a few moments to read up on your rights and options before it’s too late.
If you’ve recently been injured in a bicycle accident, whether or not you were wearing a helmet, GriffithLaw can help explain your liability and injury compensation rights. Before speaking to an insurance company or accepting a settlement offer, call our office today to ensure your rights are being upheld.