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Do motorcycle helmets interfere with riders' vision and hearing?

Michigan motorcycle accident lawyer explains helmets prevent – and do not cause – motorcycle accidents

To wear a motorcycle helmet or not has caused a debate between motorcycle accident lawyers and bikers, and of course politicians pandering for votes.

Some bikers say that wearing motorcycle helmets is actually unsafe — that it could interfere with a rider’s vision and hearing. Let’s debunk that one right now. Here’s one more reason to ride with your motorcycle helmets on — thanks to some hard facts and data.

The effects of motorcycle helmets on seeing and hearing

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sponsored a study called The Effects of Motorcycle Helmets on Seeing and Hearing. The study aimed to assess the effect of wearing a helmet upon the ability of motorcycle riders to:

1. Visually detect the presence of vehicles in adjacent lanes before changing lanes, and

2. Detect traffic sounds when operating at normal highway speeds.

The study found that helmet use does not negatively affect vision or hearing in motorcyclists. I explain how and why in further detail below.

How the motorcycle safety study on helmets use and motorcycle accidents worked

Fifty motorcyclists of various ages and riding experience participated. The riders drove their own motorcycles along a prescribed test route, which was 5.5 miles on a four-lane divided highway.

Vision: The bikers were asked to change lanes periodically, whenever they heard a signal from a following vehicle. Each rider drove the test route three times, once wearing a full-coverage helmet, once wearing a partial coverage helmet and once wearing no helmet. The degree of head rotation during the lane changes was measured.

Hearing: The volume of the sound signal used to prompt the lane change was varied, and the minimum sound level was recorded for each biker.

Test results: Why helmets do not interfere with vision and hearing

Vision: The vision test showed that most riders recover the lateral field of view that’s lost by wearing a helmet by turning their heads a little farther. Before changing lanes, the riders compensated for the loss by turning their heads more (when they were wearing a helmet). They didn’t require significantly more time to turn their heads for a traffic check.

What the study found was helmet use also did not hamper the ability of riders to see traffic or to increase the time needed to check for traffic.

Hearing: The hearing test showed that there were no significant differences in the riders’ ability to hear the auditory signals, regardless of whether they were wearing a helmet. And for any given speed, helmets did not diminish hearing.

Why you should wear your motorcycle helmet

The takeaway: The study results showed that wearing a motorcycle helmet does not restrict the ability to hear or the likelihood of seeing a vehicle in an adjacent lane prior to changing lanes. Take a look at one of my recent blogs on how to choose a safe motorcycle helmet.

And, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motorcycle helmets are about 29 percent effective in preventing motorcycle accident fatalities. In other words, bikers wearing helmets have a 29 percent better chance of surviving a crash than those who choose not to wear a motorcycle helmet. Other statistics report helmets are up to 45 percent effective in preventing motorcycle accident deaths. This is especially important, given that Michigan motorcycle accident deaths have increased by 21 percent.

Trust me, as a motorcycle lawyer in Michigan, I’ve had a lot of stubborn bikers sitting across my desk (and you definitely know who you are if you’re reading this) who I’ve helped after a motorcycle accident has occurred. Some of my bikers who’ve been hurt in motorcycle accidents still like to argue with me about the need for helmets. There really is no reason to debate. Put those helmets on!

– Source, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: Do motorcycle helmets interfere with the vision and hearing of riders?

Steven M. Gursten heads Michigan Auto Law. He received the highest motorcycle accident settlement in Michigan last year, according to Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He is recognized as one of the nation’s top motorcycle lawyers. Steve has spoken at trial seminars on motorcycle lawsuits, and is available for comment on Michigan’s motorcycle helmet laws.

– Photo courtesy of Creative Commons, by DeusXFlorida

Related information to protect yourself:

Requirement to wear motorcycle helmet in Michigan on its way out

15 motorcycle driving tips to keep you safe

Major predictors of motorcycle accidents and serious injury

Michigan Auto Law is the largest law firm exclusively handling car accident, truck accident and motorcycle accident cases throughout the entire state. We have offices in Farmington Hills, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Sterling Heights to better serve you. Call (800) 777-0028 for a free consultation with one of our motorcycle accident lawyers.

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