Philadelphia Personal Injury Lawyers Discuss To DOT or Not to DOT: The Fundamental Choice in Choosing a Motorcycle Helmet September 16, 2013
By Henry Yampolsky, Esq.
In May of 2012 Susan Randa, a 49 year-old California woman and her fiancée, Thomas Donohue crashed while riding Donohue’s Harley Davidson. Randa sustained fatal head injuries and died at the scene of the motorcycle accident. Donohue walked away unscathed from the crash. The difference between Randa’s and Donohue’s fates was in the helmets both were wearing. While Donohue wore a helmet which met Federal Safety Standards, Randa wore a cheap and stylish “novelty” lid. This tragic accident reinforced the fact that there is more to selecting the right motorcycle helmet than color and style.
When purchasing a motorcycle helmet there are two fundamental options. The first is a DOT certified helmet, which meets the requirements of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (“FMVS”) No. 218, and is thus certified by the manufacturer to be able to withstand the forces of a typical impact.
The second is obtaining a uncertified novelty lid. The most important difference between Department of Transportation approved and “novelty” helmets is the ability of the approved helmet to absorb impact forces in a motorcycle crash.
Ironically, the very qualities that make the “novelty” helmet unsafe also make it attractive to the consumer. Because most novelty helmets lack the inner impact-absorbing liner they are lighter and appear to offer a better fit.
Typical Novelty Helmets. Source: Michigan State Police
DOT Approved “Shorty” Style Helmet Source: Michigan State Police
Certified helmets are required to have a “DOT” sticker as well as contain information such as manufacturer’s name or identification; precise model designation; size; month and year of manufacture; and instructions to the purchaser regarding construction and other safety-related information. Novelty lids will often have no information at all or will contain a sticker, warning the user that the helmet “is not intended to be used as safety equipment.” Moreover, in states like California, New Jersey and New York, which have mandatory helmet laws, wearing a novelty helmet is in fact illegal and can result in a ticket. Of course, as Susan Randa unfortunately learned the consequences of wearing a novelty lid can result in more than just a roadside conversation with Officer Friendly.
As motorcycle season is winding down, take the time to find out if your helmet will serve its most important function – protect you in the crash. If you are unsure, if your helmet is DOT certified, call and speak with one of our motorcycle accident lawyers. Our Philadelphia personal injury lawyers are well-versed in motorcycle safety, having represented countless clients in personal injury lawsuits after they were injured in crashes. Call us today at 1-800-222-8792 or contact us online.
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