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Motorcycle accidents are by far one of the more catastrophic types of accidents a person can experience. As a rider, you are fully exposed to everything around you – including the road, debris, and other vehicles. An accident at even low speeds can lead to permanently disabling injuries.

If you are new to riding or you are a long-time rider, you might be tempted to purchase a used motorcycle helmet. After all, a brand new one is a big investment and if you are not sure you want to commit to the open road on a motorcycle, the cheaper price of a used one makes it tempting.

Before you buy that used motorcycle helmet, you have a few things to think about. Not only should you consider the helmet laws, but also the safety of any type of helmet you purchase – new or used.

Are Motorcycle Helmets Required in Chicago?

Motorcycle laws in the Midwest have gone through numerous changes. In Illinois, the state has adopted motorcycle laws and they have been in effect since 1968. These laws were overturned by the Illinois Supreme Court, saying that they were unconstitutional.

However, in 2009, the legislature was brought up again by the Illinois Senate and they proposed that all riders have a helmet with a chain strap. The law was denied and since then Illinois has not had any motorcycle helmet laws.

While Illinois is among the very few states that have no helmet laws, including Iowa and New Hampshire, it is highly recommended that you do wear a helmet when riding.

Helmet Laws Save Lives

In the states where helmets are required when riding a motorcycle, there has been dramatic reductions in the number of reported deaths. In fact, California saved over $394 million on costs associated with accidents because of their universal motorcycle helmet law. Only about 12 percent of riders who die in accidents are wearing helmets at the time of the event. States without any laws see a 64 percent increase in the number of deaths.

How Many Motorcycle Accidents Happen Each Year?

Motorcycles require caution and experience. However, the best rider may still encounter a catastrophic accident. Therefore, if you ride, you should be aware of the stats and do what you can to reduce becoming one of those statistics.

  • In 2013, NHTSA estimated that 4,668 riders were killed, which is a six percent decrease from the deaths in 2012.
  • There were 88,000 injures in 2013, which was also a decrease of five percent from 2012.
  • Motorcycle accident fatalities occurred 26 times more often than passenger vehicle accident fatalities.
  • Motorcycle riders were killed in night time accidents more than day time.
  • States without universal helmet laws had a 59 percent death rate for riders not wearing helmets, while states with these universal laws only saw an eight percent death rate.
  • NHTSA says that 1,630 riders were saved in 2013 because of wearing a motorcycle helmet, and they say that 715 more could have been saved if those riders were wearing helmets.

Should You Buy a Used Motorcycle Helmet?

When you buy anything used, not just a motorcycle helmet, you need to know you are no longer purchasing something brand new with a manufacturer guarantee. You cannot tell how the previous owner treated that helmet, how often it was left in the sun, dropped, or even if it was involved in an accident.

As a rule, a used helmet is one that you should never consider. A motorcycle helmet is one of the safety must-haves, but also one that you need to do its job if you are involved in an accident someday.

A good helmet will protect your skull, brain, and even your neck. It can protect you from a fatal injury, prevent you from suffering from permanent disfigurement, and while your state might not require that you wear one, your loved ones will appreciate that you do.

Here are a few reasons to reconsider that used helmet:

  • The person you are buying the helmet from may not have the same head shape as you, and the better the fit, the safer the helmet.
  • You cannot assess the damage. You cannot tell how old the helmet is and how much previous abuse it has taken from its owner. A minor scratch on the side might not seem like much, but how do you know the protective material under it is not compromised?
  • Inner cores of helmets break down over time; therefore, if the helmet has been left out in the sun for hours every day or heavily used, that inner core may be well beyond its safety lifespan. You cannot examine the core, because it is hidden under a layer of hard outer shell.
  • You also should consider the hygiene of that used helmet. You do not know the amount of sweat, dander, and possibly lice living in the helmet.

Why Does a Helmet Matter?

Some riders do not understand the importance of a motorcycle helmet. Some do not like to wear them because they are heavy, suffocating, or bulky for the ride. While it might not be aesthetically pleasing or even comfortable, that helmet is one of the cheapest ways to protect yourself. After all, you might be an excellent rider, but can you predict what the people in vehicles around you will do?

Remember the 5-Year Rule

Did you know that you should replace your helmets every five years max? The five-year rule exists because manufacturers have assessed that the glue, resin, and other materials used will eventually break down by the five-year mark, especially when exposed to elements, wear and tear, and UV rays. While there is plenty that does not deteriorate in the five-year span, the safety components of your helmet are likely to be compromised; therefore, you should consider replacing that helmet after five years anyway.

What Wears a Helmet Out?

Helmets do wear out over time, and they will start to break down long before you recognize the symptoms. It is not just the age of the helmet that will force it to break down. In fact, there are other factors that force it to slowly deteriorate, and the deterioration comes from sources including:

  • Amount of Use – Naturally, the more often a helmet is used, the faster it will wear down. The total hours and miles ridden by that rider will play a significant role in how quickly the helmet breaks down. For heavily used helmets, a rider might need to replace it every two to three years – instead, of the traditional five-year mark.
  • Maintenance Practices – Helmets require maintenance too. This includes replacing inner linings, cleaning the helmet, and proper storage.
  • Initial Quality of the Product – Some helmets are made from poorer quality materials, and these poor-quality materials break down faster than higher quality materials used during the initial manufacturing.

Do Experts Agree?

When it comes to wearing down a helmet and choosing the right one, most experts agree that a helmet’s safety and dependability vary by brand and use. Some ways to tell if a helmet needs a replacement include:

  • When the helmet is subject to an impact, including a drop from a few feet
  • If the padding or retention system is loose and the helmet does not secure on the head
  • The synthetic foam padding inside of the helmet has heavy signs of use and feels loose when placed on the head (you should be able to shake your head without the helmet moving)
  • If there are indentations on the EPS liner or there are white scratches that can be seen on the surface of the helmet

The Bottom Line

Bottom line, it is always best to purchase a helmet yourself. That is the only way to ensure that you have purchased a helmet safe enough to use for your next ride. Furthermore, when you do not know the person that has used that helmet, the history of the helmet, or how many years it has left, you are putting yourself at grave risk.

Injured in a Motorcycle Accident? You Need an Attorney

If you have been injured in a motorcycle accident, turn to the accident advocates at Malman Law. Our team is here to help you with your accident claim. Whether you have a claim against a manufacturer for a faulty motorcycle helmet or you need assistance with a claim against someone who has caused your collision, we are here to ensure you receive maximum compensation.

Schedule your free, no-obligation consultation today at 888-307-7068 or request more information online.

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  • Steven Malman was selected to the list for 2018-2019.

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  • As the founder of Steven J. Malman and Associates, P.C., Attorney Steven Malman has 21 years of experience handling personal injury, nursing home, medical malpractice, premises liability, construction and workers’ compensation cases. Mr. Malman is one of Chicago’s leading authorities on personal injury law and has taken a special interest in defending the elderly from neglect and abuse. He has personally handled over 10,000 cases successfully, and collected hundreds of millions dollars for his clients.

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