Snell certified motorcycle helmets are well-built and have saved the lives of many motorcyclists. However, that doesn’t mean they’re indestructible. In fact, they’re intended for use as throw-away products. That is, you should retire them after they’ve been through one motorcycle accident.
Although the outer shell is subjected to high impact forces and friction during an accident, the real damage occurs to the interior foam, which absorbs impact energy by deforming. Without this “give,” the impact shock wave would be transmitted directly to your head.
The problem is that after an accident, the foam doesn’t recover completely to its previous state. If you continue wearing the helmet after a crash, the compressed foam will have less “give” for absorbing the shock of a future accident and you could very well suffer a head injury. This is why you should never carry anything inside your helmet such as tools or other objects because they too, will also compress the foam lining.
A motorcycle helmet is made from plastics and plastic-like materials. These materials have a limited shelf life and are weakened by exposure to ultraviolet rays from sunlight. Even long-term exposure to oils from your skin and various hair products will break down the polymers that make up these materials. This gradual degradation is the reason you should retire your helmet after five years of accident-free use.
If you drop your helmet from a second story window, or if it suffers from similar abuse, you should also retire it. But that doesn’t mean throwing it out if it’s dropped a few feet to the ground. Finally, the five-year rule is based on average usage. If you’re always on your bike, you may have to retire your helmet sooner.
If a motorcycle accident injured you and you require legal assistance, please contact us at Hogan Injury.