Do you know when to replace your bicycle helmet? It is the most important piece of safety equipment for bicyclists of every age. During 2015, there were 689 traffic accidents involving bicycles in Virginia. Those accidents caused 732 injuries and 15 deaths. What kept the number of deaths so low? In most cases, a good bicycle helmet prevented fatalities and mitigated the severity of other injuries.
How do you know when to replace your bicycle helmet? There are seven questions to ask yourself about your current helmet.
1. Has the helmet been in a crash? If you have been in a crash and hit your head, you must replace the helmet. The foam part of the helmet is meant to protect you from a single crash. The protective foam can be damaged without apparent harm to the outer shell. The foam can also be damaged by dropping the helmet on the ground. If there are any scratches or areas where the foam is crushed, the helmet should be replaced.
2. Was the helmet made in the 1970s or early 1980s? Helmets made during these years are unlikely to have an adequate foam liner. The ANSI standard changed in 1984.
3. Was the helmet made in the late 1980s or 1990? If your helmet was made during this period by ASTM or Snell, it was designed to meet current safety standards. Otherwise, it probably needs to be replaced.
4. How old is the helmet? Most manufacturers recommend that helmets be replaced after 5 years. But deterioration depends on use, care, and abuse. There have also been improvements in helmets in recent years. It might be time to replace your bicycle helmet if you can find a better helmet than you could five years ago.
5. Is someone trying to sell you something? Don’t believe every sales pitch or advertisement. The foam in a helmet does not deteriorate for many years (up to 25 years, in fact), and the UV coatings on the shells are designed to withstand extended exposure to intense sunlight. Italian helmet manufacturer MET says, after extensive testing, that their helmets will be effective for up to eight years if used correctly.
6. Is the one you have out of style? It is perfectly acceptable to replace your helmet because you want to look good. Just be sure to get something equivalent to or better than the one you have now.
7. Is the helmet you have better than the helmets available today? Some of the new helmet styles that are “squared off” or have unnecessary projections and ridges might increase sliding resistance of the shell (which could cause neck or other injuries). The NHTSA recommends the round smooth shells as optimal for surviving a crash.
Ask yourself these seven questions periodically to know when to replace your bicycle helmet. If you obey state laws, take appropriate steps to ensure your safety, and wear a good helmet, you will stand a better chance of surviving a crash.
If you or a loved one have been injured in a bicycle accident, the attorneys of Altizer Law, P.C., are here to help you assess liability for the accident and, if appropriate, to represent you in obtaining just compensation for your injuries.