Motorcycle accidents are common and may end in loss of precious lives. Riders must make wearing helmets a must.
Shantanu rides to work everyday. The 27-year old loves his motorbike and will trade it in for nothing. Once, on his way back home, he went on a riding spree with his friends. He had an accident. Fortunately, apart from a fracture and some bruises, he endured no head or facial injuries. Had it not been for his helmet, the accident could have turned fatal and his family would be doing with one member less.
Wearing a helmet is indispensable
Imagine world cricketers batting on fields without wearing helmets? You would think they are either out of their minds or are dare devils. It is not any different for motorcycle riders either.
You may find it very cumbersome to wear helmets. Every time somebody insists on your wearing one, you may think it is a waste of time. You may feel that accidents can never happen to you. If you are a safe rider then why worry?
Riding a bike at 55 kmph means you are moving at 49 feet per second. It is the speed at which you would hit the ground, if you were to jump from the fourth floor of a building. You may have a million excuses for not protecting yourself with a helmet. But this is reason enough for all those arguments to do a vanishing act. A little care can save your life.
How does a helmet work?
A helmet works exactly like your skull. Made from fibreglass and thermoplastic it acts like a shell for protecting your brain. The inside of a helmet is lined with expanded polystyrene (EPS) of controlled density. When the helmet is struck with a hard surface, the inner lining acts as a buffer and absorbs the shock. It bears the sudden change in energy and pressure and keeps the skull intact. The EPS may crush but it still protects the skull.
When the skull is hit it moves towards the brain, leading to brain damage. The helmet, by buffering the impact of shock and dissipating the energy, prevents the skull from causing an impact on the brain. In 2007, the Mumbai Traffic Police registered over 7 lakh cases of bike accidents. In the US, close to 5000 people were killed in bike accidents, 60 per cent of whom were not wearing a helmet. The deadliest injuries occurred on the head and the chest. The ones who were helmeted prevented possible critical head and facial injuries.
What makes a good helmet?
A good helmet is one that promotes your safety. Ensure that you check for these features:
- The outer shell of a good helmet must be made of fiberglass or thermoplastic. EPS is the best energy absorbent and is a must for helmets.
- Look for a strong chinstrap. Nylon or Tyrelene are the best. The chinstraps must be secured to the shell by steel anchor plates.
- Fastening by double 'D' rings, bars & buckles or an all metal clasps is also safe. Copper or brass is the best for fixing anchor plates to the shell.
How do you know if the helmet fits you well?
Try on the helmet to know if the fit is right. If it is wobbly and comes off easily from your head, then it is too loose. You do not want to lose the helmet at the very first impact. If the helmet leaves a mark on your face, when you take it off, that means it is too tight. Select one with a good grip. Tilt your head from side to side, move it up and down, to check the fit. The helmet has to fit snugly on your head.
Safety standards for helmets
Every county has a different safety standard for helmets. According to the Indian laws, wearing helmets while riding bikes is mandatory. The safety standard that the Indian government has approved for motorcycle helmets is IS 4151. The USA complies with FMVSS 218. Safety standards also vary across industries. Find the standard that your government has set, for your activity and vehicle, and stick to it.
Checklist before buying a helmet
You are ready to buy a helmet, but do not know where to begin. Here is a checklist that can make buying a helmet easier and meaningful.
- Check for safety standards
- Take time to check fittings. Ensure a comfortable fit
- Try a helmet in front of a mirror to check if it suits your personality
- Buy a helmet from an authorised dealer only. Never buy it from street side vendors
- Insist on a bill and save it
- Ask for a helmet instruction card along with the helmet. Read it carefully
- Buy a helmet lock. If you do not wish to carry your helmet around, you can lock it to your motorcycle
Busting helmet myths
You might be under the impression that helmets not only seize the feeling of freedom that riding a bike gives but also hold you back. It is time now to bust those myths.
- Helmets do not give you bald pates even if you wore them round the clock. In 1981, this fact was studied and proved by Dr. Arthur Rook, a leading authority on baldness and consultant dermatologist.
- When you are in motion, helmets do not impair hearing. A study conducted at the California Institute of Technology and USDA forests service proves this fact.
To make optimum use of your helmet, treat it with care. The easy tips given here can help you use your helmet well.
- Get your helmet some fresh air everyday and avoid foul odours.
- Keep your helmet clean.
- Check if the straps are not worn out.
- If your helmet has faced an impact, buy a new one.
- Avoid pressing the inner lining of the helmet because it can impair its capacity to bear pressures.
- Avoid stuffing things in your helmet. It is not a carry bag.
- Take care not to drop your helmet as it might create dents on it.
- Keep it away from children.
- Change your helmet every two to three years.
Motorcycle riders are generally young and often sole bread winners of the family. Every time somebody succumbs to an accident, a country loses precious life. A family may lose an entire support system. Beyond economical reasons, there are also emotional threads tied to every individual's life. All you need to do to prevent this is, wear a helmet!