Unfortunately, the answer is usually no. Surveys show that in states without helmet laws, only 34 to 54 percent of motorcyclists wear helmets voluntarily. In states that do have such laws, more than 98 percent of motorcyclists wear them--an enormous difference.
Helmets don't hamper peripheral vision. Normal peripheral vision is between 200 and 220 degrees; federal safety standards require that helmets provide 210 degrees of peripheral vision. Over 90 percent of crashes happen within a range of 160 degrees of peripheral vision (most of the remaining crashes are rear-end collisions). So it's clear that helmets do not affect peripheral vision or contribute to crashes.
A motorcyclist out on the road hears just as well or even better with a helmet on as without one on. Why? Because for someone without a helmet on, the wind and sound of the engine are very loud, and any other important sounds must be even louder to be heard over all that noise. With a helmet on, surrounding sounds are quieter, but in equal proportions. This means that what can be heard over wind and engine noise without a helmet on can be heard as well with a helmet on because the wind and engine noise will be reduced.
What you need to know:
- Helmets are about 29 percent effective in preventing motorcycle deaths and about 67 percent effective in preventing brain injuries.
- Ride where you can be seen: Remember that there is no one safe place to ride. Use lane positioning to your advantage to be seen and to provide extra space for emergency braking situations or avoidance maneuvers. Avoid the blind spots of other vehicles.
- Make your lane moves gradually, and clearly signal your intentions to the drivers of other vehicles. Always use appropriate signaling before changing lanes, and never weave between lanes.
- Never share a lane with a car. A driver might not expect you to be there and might not be aware of your presence. Remember that most drivers are looking for other, bigger vehicles.
Choose riding gear that will increase your visibility in addition to providing you protection in the event of a crash. Wear brightly colored, preferably fluorescent, clothing. Use retro-reflective materials on your clothing, motorcycle and the helmet, especially at night.