While a half helmet offers significantly less protection than an open face or full coverage helmet it is certainly safer in wearing no helmet at all. A half helmet does not have the coverage in the frontal or temporal areas that a three-quarter style helmet also known as an open-face helmet, or a full-face helmet has.
The decision of whether to wear a half helmet open face helmet or a full-face helmet is a question that many new riders ask themselves.
The simple answer to the question is a half helmet is better than no helmet at all. But as the motorcycle Rider choosing such a critical piece of safety equipment that is one step up from having nothing at all is certainly not the best decision.
You can only compare a half helmet directly to an inexpensive open-face or full-face helmet as there are no Hi-tech / high-quality half helmets on the market since safety is not their primary purpose. The main reason a rider chooses a half helmet is to comply with a mandatory government helmet law with the smallest possible helmet available. There are no half helmets with tough motorcycle helmet certifications like those issued by the snow memorial foundation.
So, the most direct comparison in safety is to compare the protection of a half helmet to that of an inexpensive entry-level open face or coverage helmet.
In the event of an accident, if you land on the top of your head, I have a helmet that might provide similar protection to an entry-level open face or full coverage helmet of course you have no way of knowing where the point of impact will be. If you strike your head in the side temporal areas or have a frontal impact, having a helmet will offer the least protection of any type of helmet on the market and is one of the reasons why none of the top safety certifications apply to them.
In the US half helmets legally must meet the Federal government DOT S-218 standard only.
In terms of absolute safety t20 coverage also known as a full-face helmet offer the best protection followed closely by modular or flip-up helmets and then by open-face otherwise known as a three-quarter or jet helmet with half helmets offering the least protection of all.
I have helmet is the simplest helmet design in covers usually a little less than half your head. The half helmet covers the top of the head in comes down to about the ears, it offers no protection in the rear or in the temporal or frontal area.
Some people say wearing a half helmet on a cruise at slower speeds can be an ok choice however this contradicts safety studies done around the world including those done here in the United States by the government and insurance.
Most motorcycle accidents and fatalities do not happen at high speeds, they have been at relatively low speeds close to home in exactly the type of riding situation as one my call at a conservative slow speed Cruise on a Sunday afternoon.
You never know when you’re going to have an accident and most fatal accidents happen at speeds much slower than one might imagine so always having the most protective helmet is always the prudent choice. So, to be clear, even if you are a more conservative Rider who wants to cruise at slower speeds a half helmet is better than nothing, but it is a lot less protective than an open face or full coverage helmet.
Is a Half Helmet Better Than No Helmet? Questions and Answers on the Safety of Half Helmets:
Q: Is A Half Helmet Safe?
A: Well, let’s say they are half safe and better than nothing
Q: Where Are Half Helmets’ Biggest Weaknesses?
A: Almost 15% of major facial trauma injuries in motorcycle riders occur to the facial and jaw area wear a half helmet offers no protection at all. A motorcycle helmet is designed to protect the motorcycle’s head in the event of an accident. For most people, the favorite part of their head is their face which is totally exposed and unprotected by a half helmet.
Q: If half helmets are so much less protective than open-face and full coverage helmets why do so many riders wear them?
A: Many riders choose half helmets just to comply with mandatory helmet laws. The main reasons are they are lightweight and offer an arriving experience that’s closest to wearing no helmet at all. For some riders, it is about fashion or culture and having a certain look or style they want to have that biker motorcycle gang look.
Q: When thinking about the safety of a 1/2 helmet some riders are you that the safety depends on the writing skills of the motorcyclist rather than the piece of safety equipment is this correct?
A: No, it is not correct. No matter what the riding skill of the rider a full-face helmet will always be safer than an open-face helmet and both will always be safer than having no helmet. The skill of the rider may help to avoid some types of accidents, but they will have no effect on the type of impact your head has when you come off the motorcycle.
Q: What about the safety of half helmets regarding debris, smoke, and bags from striking the facial area?
A: At most a rider wearing a half helmet can wear a good set of goggles although most just wear glasses. Neither goggles nor glasses offer level protection anywhere close to a face shield on a full phase or open face helmet. The facial area using a helmet is much more exposed no matter what type of eye protection you use.
Well, Are half helmets safe? Are they better than wearing no helmet at all? They may be better than wearing nothing at all but depending on where you strike your head, they might not be much better and in some cases, they might not be better at all. For the greatest protection wear a full-face helmet or at least a modular flip-up style. If for some reason you absolutely cannot accept these styles at least wear an open-face 3/4 style helmet which will still offer significantly more protection than a half helmet.
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Michael’s Summary and Conclusion
My first motorcycle helmet was an AGV X-3000 model. It was AGV’s Agostini replica model which was their top helmet at the time. The price of this helmet was 1/5 the price of my first motorcycle so it was a big investment.
About 6 months after I started riding the helmet was stolen from the parking lot of the American School of Paris. I had to ride every day and I did not have enough money to immediately replace the AGV. I was able to borrow a half helmet from a friend it wasn’t the American Style biker half helmet it was more than 1960s putting bow road race style, but the level of coverage was the same.
I felt totally uncomfortable wearing it from the first moment. I never felt safe if in for a few weeks it was very awkward riding. Fortunately, in about a month I had come up with the money for my second AGV X-3000. In the many decades of riding and racing motorcycles I have always worn full-face helmets (full coverage helmets or integral helmets) and I would never ride with anything else.
Information for this article was partially sourced and researched from the following authoritative Government, educational and nonprofit organizations:
About the author:
Michael Parrotte started his career in the motorcycle industry by importing AGV Helmets into the North American market. He was then appointed the Vice President of AGV Helmets America, total he worked with AGV Helmets for 25 years. In addition, he functioned as a consultant for KBC Helmets, Vemar Helmets, Suomy Helmets, Marushin Helmets, KYT Helmets, and Sparx Helmets.
In 1985 he is the founded AGV Sports Group in cooperation with AGV Helmets
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