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5 Important Facts About Motorcycle Helmets

Although most motorcyclists have accepted wearing a helmet as a part of their ride, it is not as simple as just putting on any hard hat and going for a ride.

5 Important Facts About Motorcycle Helmets

For your safety, you need to know the facts about motorcycle helmets.

Know the State Laws

Illinois does not require motorcyclists to wear a helmet and is only one of four states that make wearing a helmet an option. If you do choose to not protect yourself with a motorcycle helmet, understand that if you cross out of Illinois into another state, you will likely be in violation of that state’s mandatory laws.

Wear a Helmet Anyway

Motorcycle accidents are unpredictable and happen on Chicago streets every day. With nothing else protecting you from serious brain injury, the best safety precaution you can do is protect your head with a helmet.

Choose the Right Helmet

When looking for a helmet, make sure that it meets the minimum safety standards offered by the Department of Transportation (DOT) or by Snell. The safety standards can be found on the inside of the helmet and ensures that the brand and model you choose have met the rigid test standards for both of these organizations.

Make Sure the Helmet Fits Properly

You should try helmets on to ensure a proper fit. Manufacturers use different criteria when determining size, so each one will be different. A helmet for motorcycle riding should fit squarely on your head, with no more than room for two fingers space. The cheek pads need to be touching, but gaps should exist between the pads for the brow and your temples.

Your Helmet May Need to Be Replaced

After three or four years, the protective qualities of a helmet may deteriorate and no longer be effective. Replace your helmet at this time or after you have been in an accident.

Why Helmets Are So Important for Motorcyclists

One of the leading causes of a fatal motorcycle accident is traumatic brain injury. This can occur from being thrown from the bike after impact and hitting the ground at great force. There are varying degrees of brain injury which could cause nothing more than a slight concussion or injury so severe that it leads to death. Studies done by John Hopkins University indicate that these types of injuries drop 65% when a helmet is worn, while fatal accidents are reduced by 37%. You may also be reducing your risk of cervical spine injury and paralysis. (Learn about how Helmets Protect from Brain Injury.)

Illinois Motorcycle Helmet Laws

Enough has been said about the importance of wearing a proper helmet while riding a motorcycle. Using a proper helmet can save lives of motorcycle riders and passengers, and prevent many disabling injuries. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistics, riding a motorcycle is much more dangerous than driving a car.

In 2014, the chances of being killed in a motorcycle crash were 27 times higher for motorcycle riders compared to car occupants. Wearing a helmet means 37 percent better chances of survival in an accident and 67 percent better chances of preventing a brain injury compared to riders who do not wear a helmet.

Chicago motorcycle accident lawyer is often asked whether there are any motorcycle helmet laws in Illinois. In this post, we will answer this common question.

Helmet laws in Illinois

Currently, Illinois does not require a motorcycle rider or passenger to wear a helmet while the motorcycle is in operation. In fact, Illinois is one of the three states that do not have any laws necessitating helmet usage by motorcycle riders. However, Illinois has laws that require riders to use safety goggles that can provide frontal and side protection.

While Illinois does not have any specific laws on helmet usage, there are federal laws on motorcycle helmet usage. The Department of Transportation (DOT) has enacted the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 218, which has standards on design and manufacturing of motorcycle helmets. These standards require that motorcycle helmets should provide protection for specific speeds and the various levels of impact.

Apart from these standards, the Snell Memorial Foundation has also set its own standards for motorcycle safety. Although these standards are voluntary, but many motorcycle riders and passengers follow these standards for better safety. Snell certification is an indicator of the helmet’s quality.

There is nothing that beats the pleasure of riding a motorcycle with cool winds brushing past to you. However, it is important to understand that just because the Illinois does not require you to use a helmet, it does not mean it is safe to ride without one. This independence and excitement of riding without a helmet can cost you your life or at least quality of life.

Remember, motorcycle riders are not protected from the side, rear, front, and top like car, truck and other automobile drivers are. In event of a motorcycle crash, the rider and passengers fall directly to the ground. The resulting impact can cause severe injuries ranging from broken bones, severe lacerations, traumatic brain injuries and even amputations. If the motorcyclist suffers a brain injury, it can cause physical disabilities, unbearable pain, loss of cognitive abilities, and loss of life’s pleasure. In worse cases, death can occur. The chances of all this happening can reduce drastically if you wear a proper helmet.

If the motorcyclist suffers a brain injury, it can cause physical disabilities, unbearable pain, loss of cognitive abilities, and loss of life’s pleasure. In worse cases, death can occur. The chances of all this happening can reduce drastically if you wear a proper helmet.

Motorcycle Safety and Helmet Use

The Illinois Department of Transportation reports that there are on average 3,300 motorcycle accidents annually involving minor to serious injuries. Of these, 150 motorcyclists sustain fatal injuries. Fatalities caused by motorcycle accidents amount to almost 16 percent of the total fatalities in the state. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that in a road accident, motorcyclists are 39 times more likely to sustain fatal injuries as compared to occupants of passenger cars.

Steps to Keeping Motorcyclists Safe

The traffic in Chicago is amongst the most congested in the country; therefore, the likelihood of motorcycle accidents is also high. This requires increased road safety awareness campaigns and additional steps to ensure the safety of motorcyclists on the road. The most important step for traffic enforcement agencies is to be able to identify drunk drivers and also those who have been in previous fatal motorcycle accidents. Motorcyclists should also keep a check on themselves and avoid riding while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Wearing a Helmet

The other important step is to wear a proper motorcycle helmet while riding. As a public awareness program, a document titled ‘Motorcycle Safety’ has been published by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The document brings out various statistics regarding motorcycle accidents and also provides guidelines to ensure the safety of a motorcyclist. The statistics of 2010 show that 41 percent of motorcycle riders and 50 percent of passengers who died in accidents were not wearing helmets. The CDC continues to research better ways to ensure the safety of motorcyclists; they state that wearing a proper helmet is the best way to reduce the number of traumatic brain injuries and deaths in a motorcycle accident.

Wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle is the best safety mechanism. The statistics regarding helmet use indicate that a helmet reduces the chances of death in an accident by 37 percent. The risk of head injury while wearing a helmet is reduced by 69 percent. The risk of death to a rider not wearing a helmet is 40 percent more than that of a rider wearing a helmet.

Traumatic Brain Injuries

An injury to the head in an accident can have life-altering consequences. The brain is a sensitive organ and severe trauma can result in traumatic brain injury. The injury may not be fatal, but it can be debilitating and can severely affect the life of the victim. The victim may have to undergo long rehabilitation treatment which can be an emotionally traumatic experience for the loved ones of the victim. The treatment of traumatic brain injuries is almost 13 times more expensive than non-brain injuries and this can have a big financial impact for the victim and the family.

Choosing Motorcycle Safety Gear

When riding a motorcycle, it is important to wear appropriate safety gear that offers protection and is comfortable, well-fitting, and durable. Here is a list of motorcycle safety gear that will offer protection in the event of a motorcycle crash.


A helmet is by far the most important safety accessory. Even though Chicago does not have a mandatory helmet law, it is important to wear a helmet whenever you ride for your own safety. Consider the following features when you choose a helmet:

  • Vents: Proper ventilation makes it easier to wear a helmet even in warmer weather. If the helmet has proper vents and does not feel too hot, it is more likely that you will wear it.
  • Hard outer shell: The harder the outer shell, the better it will protect you from external shock and penetration.
  • Comfort liner: It is important that the helmet you choose fits perfectly and does not obstruct your view. A comfort liner ensures a secure fit.
  • Retention system: This feature is important, because it secures the helmet to your body in the event of a crash.
  • Visor: A visor keeps bugs, wind, and other debris at bay and lets you drive comfortably.
  • Impact absorbing liner: A liner absorbs shock on impact and makes helmet more effective.

There are a wide variety of helmets available in the market. While some helmets offer complete protection, others do not have visors or protect the whole face. Partial helmets do not protect the jaw area and mouth. Use a full-face helmet for complete protection.

Protective Clothing

A motorcyclist should always wear a protective jacket and pants. While riding, protective clothing provides protection from the elements. Choose clothing made of sturdy and durable material such as leather, ballistic nylon, and cordura. These materials offer protection both from the elements and injuries in the event of a crash. Make sure the protective gear you choose is slightly bigger than your regular clothing. Ill-fitting protective clothing can do more harm than good by becoming a distraction. Purchase a jacket with a high collar and layer your clothes to avoid being too cold or hot.


Proper footwear protects you from motorcycle parts that tend to become too hot and offers protection from roadside debris. Choose footwear with good soles so that you get a good grip of the motorcycle and the roadway. Boots make a good choice as they can protect you from foot and ankle injuries as well.


Wear snug fitting gloves that do not interfere with steering. They should help you with a good grip and protect from injuries and elements. Wear thin gloves in the summer and thicker ones in winter.

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