Do Motorcycle Helmets Impair Vision or Hearing?

Motorcycle helmets reduce the likelihood of fatality by 37 percent for motorcycle drivers and 41 percent for motorcycle passengers according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Department (NHTSD). It is estimated that over 1,600 lives were saved by helmets in 2011. However, some riders claim that helmets reduce visibility and hearing. They conclude that this increases the likelihood of a rider being in an accident. Is it possible that not wearing a helmet makes it less likely a motorcyclist will end up in a crash? Let’s explore the facts.

According to the National Occupant Protection Use Survey, 60 percent of riders wore Department of Transportation compliant helmets in 2013. This is the same percentage as in 2012. Non-compliant helmets were worn by seven percent of motorcyclists, while 33 percent did not wear helmets at all. Is this due to perceived visibility and hearing impairment? It is not possible to say why such a significant percentage did not wear helmets.

It is worth noting that in states that require helmet use, 98 percent of riders comply. States that do not require helmet use only see 54 percent of riders wearing helmets. In 2013, 19 states and Washington D.C. required motorcyclists to wear helmets. This is a decrease from 2012 when Michigan changed the law ending the requirement.

In 1996, the NHTSD did a study to determine if motorcycle helmets had a negative impact on vision or hearing. The results indicated that motorcyclists wearing a full helmet were able to compensate for any reduced visibility by turning their head prior to making a lane change. The act of turning their head was not significant and only took a nominal amount of time. Therefore it was concluded that the helmet did not adversely affect the visibility of a rider. This is especially true when the added safety that the helmet provides is factored into the results.

In the same study, the results of the hearing test indicated that the helmet doesn’t decrease or increase a motorcyclist’s ability to hear sounds. Therefore hearing is not likely impacted negatively by helmet wear.

Consider the statistics that show helmet use decreases the risk of fatality along with studies that indicate vision and hearing are not negatively impacted when determining if you should ride with or without a helmet. Even in states where helmet use is not a law, you should seriously consider the potential implications of your decision.

A good policy also helps protect you. Call La Familia Insurance at (888) 751-7511 to get a  Dallas motorcycle insurance quote.