Riding a motorcycle can be a dangerous way to get around. In more than half of crashes involving a motorcycle and a vehicle, the rider is not at fault. But lack of blame doesn’t make crashes less hazardous for motorcyclists: 75 percent of crashes result in an injury or fatality for the rider.
One of the best things you can do to reduce your risk of serious injury or death on your motorcycle is to wear a sturdy helmet. If you crash, a DOT-compliant helmet can help minimize head trauma, possibly saving your life. A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study found that motorcyclists wearing helmets had a lower likelihood of injuries to the head and face in a crash, and they were less likely to suffer a traumatic brain injury.
In Maryland, helmets aren’t just a suggestion for motorcycle riders; they’re the law.
Maryland Motorcycle Helmet Laws
Under Maryland state law, all drivers and passengers of motorcycles must wear helmets meeting the state Motor Vehicle Administration’s requirements. The administration uses Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 218 as its minimum standard for compliant helmets.
The easiest way to ensure that your helmet is compliant with state law is to use one with a factory-applied label of “Department of Transportation” or “Snell Memorial Foundation.” Some helmets bear both labels. When the helmet doesn’t include the factory-printed DOT label, it should include a label that’s sewn inside showing the month and year the helmet was made.
In addition, motorcycle operators must wear approved eye-protection devices if their bikes are not equipped with windscreens. Any goggles, prescription lenses or face shields you use while riding must comply with impact-resistance regulations from the Food and Drug Administration. At times that motor vehicles must use their lights, you’re required to use clear, non-tinted eye protection.
Motorcycle windscreens are required to be fastened securely to the bike. If you choose not to wear an approved device for eye protection, your windscreen must be attached at a height that’s appropriate to protect your eyes and face while you’re sitting on your bike in a typical position for riding. It’s recommended that you wear protective eye gear even if your bike has an appropriately installed windscreen.
Components of an Effective Crash Helmet
Helmets don’t prevent crashes, but they do help protect you in a crash. If you take a blow in a crash, your approved helmet will provide some protection to your head and brain by dispersing the huge amount of force that occurs. Helmets have four basic parts that work together to protect you:
- An outer shell that can be made of materials like Kevlar, polycarbonate, graphite, fiberglass or a combination of materials. The shell works to stop penetration and dissipate the force of the initial blow.
- A shock-absorbing liner is made of sturdy polystyrene that’s about an inch thick. It absorbs some of the brunt of the shock and helps disperse the impact.
- A comfort liner helps your helmet fit better, keeps it close to your head and improves the feel. The liner can be made of microfiber, velour, terry cloth or brushed nylon.
- A retention system includes chinstraps that hold the helmet on your head. For your helmet to work as designed, you must fasten the chinstraps.
If your helmet doesn’t fit properly, it may not do its job when you need it most. It also may feel uncomfortable as you’re riding. Try on a variety of helmets from different manufacturers, and get one that fits snugly but not tightly. For your safety and comfort, don’t buy a used helmet.
Additional Protective Gear
Maryland’s Motorcycle Safety Program also recommends that you invest in some additional protective gear designed specifically for motorcyclists. Appropriate gear will help you stay comfortable in a variety of weather conditions, and it will help keep you safe. Gear to consider includes:
- A textile jacket system with mesh material that allows air to move through. The jackets include reinforcement in critical areas of your body likely to take the impact in a crash. Many jackets also include removable rain and thermal liners.
- Gloves that help you grip your controls even in rain or when you’re sweaty.
- Special riding jeans lined with leather or Kevlar in critical areas of your body for maximum protection.
- High boots with low heels and rubber soles to help you operate your bike’s controls and get a sturdy footing on the road when you’re stopped.
- Brightly colored clothing to help other motorists see you.
Work with Experienced Motorcycle Accident Attorneys
Accidents between motorcycles and cars can result in serious injuries and even death. If you’ve been injured in a crash, or if a loved one has been killed, it’s vital that you work with experienced motorcycle accident attorneys to ensure that your rights are protected and you receive fair compensation. To speak with an attorney, please contact DuBoff & Associates, Chartered.
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