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Motorcycle Safety: How Your Motorcycle Helmet Protects You at High Speeds

Motorcycle Safety: How Your Motorcycle Helmet Protects You at High Speeds

Motorcycle safety

Cars have bumpers and crumple zones that protect their occupants from collisions. Yet these suffer severe damage after a high-speed crash. However, it's precisely this damage that absorbs the collision energy that would otherwise harm the driver and passengers.

Thoughtful motorcyclists might question how a helmet, that's quite thin compared to the car's bumpers and crumple zones, could possibly protect them in a high-speed accident. In fact, many opponents of helmet use make this argument, that a helmet couldn't possibly protect you from the tremendous energy and forces of an accident at highway speeds. Because of this erroneous conclusion, they reason that helmets contribute little to motorcycle safety at highway speeds.

The problem with this reasoning is that these skeptics imagine the motorcycle helmet being the first point of impact with another vehicle in a collision -- just like a car's bumper. If this were true, the helmet would be of little help. In addition, the motorcyclist's neck would likely be crushed. What often happens, is the rider is catapulted off his bike. If he mostly clears the car, a lot of bumping and scraping would ensue. This might still cause fatal injuries but the helmet would likely protect the rider's head.

If the motorcyclist swerves and misses the car but falls off the bike, the helmet again would likely prevent a head injury provided he doesn't impact with any cars or objects while sliding and tumbling on the pavement. Why does the helmet remain intact when a rider falls off a bike at 65 mph? Because the rider's horizontal speed has no effect on the vertical impact forces that the helmet sustains. The only factor that matters is the height of the rider's fall to the pavement.

It's a law of physics. In an accident, the vertical motion of falling generates vertical impact forces. The 65 mph horizontal motion along the pavement creates no impact forces -- just a lot of abrasion on the helmet and the person's body. If friction brings the motorcyclist to a stop, his helmet would have protected his head. If he slams horizontally into an object or barrier at 65 mph, then the impact would likely be fatal.

In any case, there are a number of scenarios where a helmet will save a motorcyclist's life even in a high-speed accident. A DOT (Department of Transportation) certified helmet easily handles the forces of a fall from a motorcycle. This is true whether the fall occurs while parked, or while riding down the interstate, because the vertical forces on the helmet are the same.

If another person's driving injured you in a motorcycle accident, get legal advice from the experienced lawyers at Power and Brown. Contact us today.