Motorcycle rider sitting on his bike

Rhode Island is a state that has a “partial” motorcycle helmet law. That means all motorcycle operators must wear a helmet until age 21. All new motorcycle operators, irrespective of age, must wear a helmet for one year from the date their Rhode Island motorcycle license was issued. Under state law, all motorcycle passengers are required to wear a helmet. Anyone who violates this helmet law could be looking at an $85 fine.

These laws are in place because wearing a helmet is a matter of life and death. Study after study has shown that wearing a helmet can help reduce your chance of suffering a serious or fatal head injury in a motorcycle accident.

What Research Shows About the Effectiveness of Helmets

Woman wearing a motorcycle helmet

There are a number of studies, which show that motorcycle helmets do serve their intended purpose. Studies and research consistently show helmet use reduces motorcycle crash-related injuries and fatalities. Reviews of these studies also find strong evidence that helmets are effective and that using motorcycle helmets can:

  • Reduce the overall death rate from motorcycle accidents when compared to riders who are not wearing helmets.
  • Decrease the occurrence of fatal head injuries in motorcycle accidents compared to non-helmeted riders.
  • Decrease in severity of non-fatal head injuries compared to riders who are not wearing helmets.
  • Reduce the risk of death by 42% and head injury by 69% in the event of a motorcycle crash.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that in 2016 alone, helmets saved the lives of 1,859 motorcyclists. If all motorcyclists had worn helmets that year, an additional 802 lives could’ve been saved. According to results from the National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS), the overall rate of Department of Transportation-compliant motorcycle helmet use in the United States was 65.3% in 2016.

Helmet use continued to be significantly higher in states that required all motorcyclists to be helmeted than in states that did not. In states without universal helmet laws, 60% of motorcyclists killed in 2016 were not wearing helmets compared to 8% in states with such laws.

Why Are DOT-Approved Helmets More Effective?

Motorcycle protective gear including  helmet and gloves

A DOT helmet is one that meets the standards set forth by the U.S. Department of Transportation for motorcycle helmet safety. These federal safety standards make helmets that will prevent traumatic brain injuries, skull fractures and other serious head injuries in a motorcycle accident.

It is important to note that novelty helmet or helmets that don’t follow DOT guidelines may not be as effective. This is because they are usually thinner and lighter and may be designed with appearance – not safety – in mind.

Here are some of the requirements of a DOT-approved motorcycle helmet:

Weight: Lightweight helmets will not suffice when it comes to protecting you in a crash. While novelty helmets may look cooler, weigh less and be more comfortable, they pose the risk of serious injury or even death. DOT helmets are heavier and bulkier but are effective when it comes to protecting you.

Liner: DOT helmets also have a thick liner, which is made of sturdy polystyrene foam. Most novelty helmets won’t have this liner and will just be made of a shell of plastic.

Decorations: DOT standards dictate that decorations taller than one-fifth of an inch should not be allowed on helmets. If you are looking at large decorations, you are probably looking at a novelty helmet, not a DOT-approved one.

Chinstraps: DOT helmets also have thick, sturdy chinstraps with strong rivets, so your helmet stays on your head during a crash. A novelty helmet may not have a chinstrap or may have a thin one, which very likely won’t be effective.

Face protection: DOT helmets will also protect your face with a face shield or a chin protector. Almost none of the novelty helmets will have this protective feature.

Helmets have become safer and more effective in recent years. New materials and better designs have helped bring down motorcycle fatality rates even more with helmet use. Experts agree that the safest and most effective motorcycle helmet is a full-face helmet with eye protection and a chin bar. Wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle is not just about complying with the law but also about being safer.

If You Have Been Injured

Regardless of how well motorcyclists protect themselves, the sad fact remains that negligent drivers cause a number of motorcycle crashes that result in catastrophic injuries and deaths. If you or a loved one has been injured in a motorcycle crash, it is important to understand that you have legal rights. You may be able to seek compensation from the at-fault party for damages, including medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering. An experienced Rhode Island Motorcycle Accident Lawyer will be able to advise you regarding your legal rights and options. Call our office at 1-(800) 992-6878, or fill out an online contact form for a free (no obligation) case evaluation.

Rhode Island motorcycle accident Victims meeting with their Personal Injury Attorney