Many states are passing laws that require motorcycle riders to have certified motorcycle helmets, which are also known as DOT helmets (Department of Transportation). These helmets are manufactured to conform to the standards set forth by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highways Traffic Safety Administration standards. These standards focus on three aspects of a crash: impact, retention, and penetration. A certified motorcycle lid should protect the motorcycle driver from trauma caused by impact to the head, as well as stay on an individual during a crash or accident.
An alternative helmet is called a novelty helmet, or a non-certified motorcycle helmet. These helmets are not necessarily made to protect an individual. While they do offer some minor protection and padding, they are shown to not pass safety tests completed by the National Highways Traffic Safety Administration. Most novelty helmets have much smaller impact attenuating liners which keep them from offering full, sufficient protection of the skull. Novelty helmets are typically used for that specific reason: novelty. They are often purchased due to their looks and not for their protection.
You can tell novelty and DOT helmets apart by looking for the DOT symbol on the back of the helmet. A DOT helmet will have met the standards enforced by FMVSS No. 218, which focuses on the compliance of a helmet to perform against standardized testing through the NHTSA. A DOT-compliant helmet would be marked as such, and sold as a certified helmet both online and offline. Without this certification, a helmet is considered a novelty helmet.
While many states have laws that force motorcyclists to wear DOT-compliant helmets, there are still several states that offer the right to choose. Many cyclists believe that they should have the freedom to choose whether or not they want to utilize a DOT motorcycle helmet, while others would never imagine riding without one. For those who have a choice, a novelty helmet is sufficient for riding, but not even required in some states. However, by using a novelty helmet, bikers are more at risk for head injuries and death in the event of an accident. This, in itself, encourages many to avoid using novelty helmets for their own safety and well-being.
Depending on your state, you may have the option to choose between a novelty helmet and a DOT helmet. If your state requires you to wear a DOT-compliant helmet by law, you will want to make sure that you purchase a certified motorcycle helmet for riding anywhere within the state lines. If you will be riding through several states, it is recommended that you consider a DOT helmet to ensure you are complying with each state’s required helmet laws.