No matter how long you’ve been riding, you might not realize some of the things you believe about motorcycle safety could be incorrect. Before hitting the road – especially if you’re a new rider – consider the following myths about safety.
- Helmets are dangerous and will cause neck injuries in a crash
If you’re avoiding wearing a helmet when you ride because you think it will cause a neck injury, this is the most dangerous myth you could possibly believe. Maybe the absence of a helmet law in your area makes you feel justified in not wearing one. The truth is, it doesn’t matter if you’re required to wear a helmet or not – you’re always safer wearing a helmet.
Head injuries are always potentially life-threatening, but head injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident are more likely to be life-threatening.
Data released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that motorcycle accidents cause more than 5,000 deaths and more than 85,000 injuries each year. The data also shows that helmets save over 1,500 lives each year. In other words, 1,500 people each year who are involved in a motorcycle accident would have died without their helmet.
Head injuries are the number one cause of death in a motorcycle crash. Motorcycle helmets have been proven to reduce the risk of brain injuries by 67%. That should be reason enough to wear a helmet.
- Splitting a lane with a car is always safe
There has been an ongoing debate regarding the safety of lane splitting. Many people say it’s safer for motorcycle riders, but current studies are painting a different picture. One study from France showed a 12% increase in motorcycle accidents in an area where lane splitting was legalized. Outside the testing area, accidents decreased by 10%.
What is lane splitting?
If you’re not from California, lane splitting is probably illegal. Generally speaking, where lane splitting is legal, motorcycles may ride in the same lane next to cars (as opposed to being required to maintain their place in a line of cars). They just can’t ride the painted lines.
One advantage is clear. At a stop light, motorcycles can drive up to the front of all traffic and get a head start, greatly reducing the risk of getting hit in stop-and-go traffic. However, recent studies suggest this practice isn’t entirely safe. While lane splitting does reduce the likelihood of motorcycles getting rear-ended, it increases the chances of a motorcycle rear-ending a car.
Other states have tried to legalize lane splitting, but it doesn’t pass scrutiny by safety experts. More testing is needed to make a definite determination, but if you’re going to practice lane splitting make sure it’s legal and drive carefully.
- Helmets obstruct your peripheral view
This is one of the most dangerous reasons to skip wearing a helmet. The NHTSA sponsored a study on how motorcycle helmets affect a rider’s sight and hearing. The study, titled The Effects of Motorcycle Helmets on Seeing and Hearing, aimed to measure a helmet’s impact on a rider’s ability to:
- Notice vehicles in adjacent lanes right before changing lanes
- Hear normal traffic sounds on a highway
Participants drove a 5.5-mile stretch of highway multiple times wearing a full helmet, a partial helmet, and no helmet. Riders were given audible signals to change lanes throughout the course.
The study concluded that a rider’s vision and hearing aren’t negatively affected by wearing a helmet.
While helmets do cut off a small portion of peripheral vision, riders in the study simply turned their heads a little further to check for traffic. The study also found that a rider’s hearing was not impaired by a helmet at all. Riders were able to hear the audible signal to change lanes even with a full helmet.
- Helmets provide a false sense of security
Some people say that helmets just make riders feel like they can ride recklessly and not wearing a helmet forces riders to drive safely. The truth is that even the best motorcycle rider in the world can end up in an accident. Even experienced riders lose control of their bikes and get hit by cars.
Wear a helmet and obey traffic laws
If you want to ride safely and keep your passenger safe, wear a helmet and obey your local traffic laws. Riding a motorcycle makes you far more vulnerable to injuries in an accident.