Bicycle helmets are in many ways a cyclist’s last line of defense in the event that something goes wrong. A helmet can help absorb the force of impact and protect someone from physical injuries if they get thrown off their bicycle.
Although state law technically does not mandate helmets for those age 18 or older, many California cyclists wear them anyway for their own safety or to more effectively train for races that will require helmets.
Not every helmet will perform the way that it should in the event of someone falling off their bike or getting into a crash. What are the most common reasons that a helmet might fail to protect someone the way that it should?
1. The helmet is quite old
Given that most bicycle helmets consist primarily of foam and hard plastic, people tend to think of their protective qualities as static or unchanging. However, the foam and the plastic will both degrade with age and offer less protection as time goes on. Many manufacturers recommend replacing helmets as frequently as every five years. Safety experts often say consumers should replace helmets every five to 10 years depending on use and the overall condition of the helmet.
2. The helmet has been in a crash before
Your helmet may feel like a good luck token if you wore it in an incident where you didn’t even suffer a scratch. However, anytime a helmet serves its purpose by protecting someone’s head, either through contact with an object or the ground, it is typically best to replace that helmet. The force of impact may have compromised the materials even if it appears safe to use.
3. The helmet stayed at home
The unfortunate truth about helmets failing to protect people in bicycle crashes is that they often don’t do their job because they aren’t there when someone needs them. Even short trips down the street and poorly for a cyclist, as no one knows when a drunk driver might take a detour through their neighborhood.
Informed cyclists have better safety habits and therefore minimize their own risks while out on the road. They also have an easier time taking appropriate action if they get hurt in a crash. Being proactive about your safety can help you avoid a cycling collision and strengthen your position if you ever have to make a claim after one.