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Myths about Helmets in India

  1. Helmets impair hearing ability and significantly restrict vision

Helmets do not impair hearing ability or affect peripheral vision. A study by the U.S Department of Transportation (NHTSA) involving a total of 50 subjects indicate that helmets do not restrict the motorcyclist’s ability to hear and insignificantly restrict lateral vision in surrounding traffic.

The study concluded,

  • No significant difference was found in rider’s ability to hear traffic, either between helmet types or between a helmet and no helmet.
  • For any given speed, helmets did not diminish nor enhance hearing.
  • The vision tests showed that the minimal amount of the lateral vision that is sacrificed by wearing a helmet can be made up by turning the head a little further. For most riders, helmet use did not result in a significant loss in the ability to see traffic or in the time required to check for traffic.
  • Any negative effect of helmets on rider vision appears to be very minor, especially in comparison to the protection offered by helmets should a crash occur.
  1. Helmets cause neck or spinal cord injuries.

Some argue that any benefit in preventing brain injuries due to helmet use may be offset by increased neck injuries, especially spinal cord injuries. Many pieces of research have proved that helmets conforming to standards and correctly worn do not cause neck or spinal cord injuries. 

For instance, let me quote the findings of a study on Helmets & Neck injuries in Fatal motorcycle crashes,

There is no liability for neck injury by wearing a safety helmet; helmeted riders had fewer neck injuries than unhelmeted riders.

 

With a couple exceptions, helmet use had no significant effect on neck injuries in these fatal motorcycle crashes.  Helmeted riders often had slightly more injuries than unhelmeted riders, but the differences were usually not statistically significant. Helmeted riders were not at greater risk for spinal cord injuries, cervical spine fractures or C1-C2 subluxation/dislocation injuries.  Soft tissue injuries in the neck – injury to the vertebral arteries, haemorrhage surrounding nerves such as the phrenic nerve or brachial plexus, throat injuries – were mostly unaffected by helmet use. Helmet weight did not have a consistent effect on most of the injuries examined here.

 

This is not the first study to find little relationship between helmet use and neck injuries. In fact, a recent review by the Cochrane Collaboration (Liu et al., 2009) summarized the results of 16 studies.  Only one of 16 studies they analyzed (Sarkar et al., 1995) reported a significant reduction in neck injury risk for helmet users; the others reported no significant differences.  Since then, Crompton et al. (2011) analyzed injury data from 40,588 motorcyclists in the National Trauma Databank and reported a neck injury among 4.4% of unhelmeted riders compared to 3.5% of those who wore a helmet – a 20% reduction in neck injury risk for helmeted riders.

3. Helmets are not required for short trips. (Short trips are not risky)

When travelling short distances, some motorcyclists feel that they are less likely to have a crash. Therefore, they don’t feel the need to wear a helmet for short trips.

Researches indicate that most motorcycle accidents involve a short trip associated with shopping, friends, entertainment or recreation, and the accident is likely to happen in a very short time close to the trip origin. 

Irrespective of whether it’s a short distance or a long distance trip, helmets do save you (statistically proven). Don’t forget to wear your helmet… always!

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