Just like airbags and seatbelts in cars, motorcycle helmets are designed to reduce the risk of serious injury in a motorcycle crash. As much as we’d like them to, they cannot prevent injury altogether.
According to a National Highway Transportation & Safety Agency (NHTSA) report, motorcylce helmets reduce the likelihood of a crash being fatal by 37%. Beyond that, though, helmets are also vitally important in prevent traumatic brain injuries in motorcycle crashes. In any given crash, a rider who is not wearing a helmet is three times more likely to suffer a traumatic brain injury than a rider who is helmeted.
Despite this research, there is a myth that is prevelant among the biker community that wearing a helmet actually increases the risk of neck injury. This myth originates from a study that says helmets increase the chance for and severity of whiplash by adding to the weight of the head in a crash. Since that study was performed, there have been more than a dozen studies conducted that expressly reject that finding.
The other major argument against wearing a helmet is that doing so obstructs vision. Again, all of the scientific research poitns the other way. Studies have shown that even a full-coverage helmet provides only minor restrictions on your horizontal perifpheral vision.
Virginia’s motorcycle helmet laws require that all drivers wear a full-coverage helmet (or wear a helmet with some other type of eye protection) and that all riders must wear a helmet.