By Cole Louison
Statistics (and common sense) tell us that motorcycle helmets provide the best available protection against severe head injury. But what makes a helmet safe? Why are some rated safer than others? How exactly are helmets rated for safety? The most important thing for a motorcycle novice to know is that wearing a helmet reduces the risk of dying in a crash by 37 percent, according to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA), a branch of the federal Department of Transportation (DOT) dedicated to achieving the highest levels of safety in motor vehicle transportation.
A safety-compliant helmet will have a thick (about one inch) inner lining, a certification label containing information about the helmet, as well as the DOT label, located in the back of the helmet. Here's what else to look for:
1. Face Shield
A combination windshield and safety goggles, this is usually made of plastic. Some shields feature anti-fog and anti-UV features, and most have a flip-up option to let air in after a long ride.
2. Rigid Outer Shell
Your helmet's first and strongest line of defense, it is designed to compress when it hits anything hard. And it's usually made of thermoplastic or a fiber-reinforced composite, like polycarbonate.
3. Impact-Absorbing Liner
Usually made of expanded polystyrene (aka Styrofoam), this secondary dense layer cushions and absorbs shock, and also compresses upon impact.
Depending on the design, vents can be found on the top, back or at the lower front of the helmet. Vents keep the inside of the helmet (and your head) cool, and also keep the shield from fogging up.
5. Chin Strap
As only a properly secured helmet can provide maximum protection, the job of your retention system is very important. Most straps these days come in three varieties: the classic Double D system, micrometric buckle and quick release.
An increasingly popular option in today's motorcycle helmets, Bluetooth technology offers a new level of convenience and hands-free communication.
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