Are Half Helmets Safe? What The Experts Think

First and foremost, choosing a helmet that meets safety standards set by organizations such as the DOT) or the Snell Foundation is important. One popular option is the half helmet, which offers less coverage than a full-face helmet but is generally considered more comfortable and offers improved visibility. But are half helmet designs safe enough for motorcycling?  

Half helmets provide less protection than full-face helmets in the event of a crash. They only offer protection from traumatic brain injuries in 36.8% of crashes and leave a portion of the face exposed to danger during crashes.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the safety ratings of half-helmets, the pros and cons, and some alternative options.

Safety Ratings Covering Half Helmets

When it comes to evaluating the safety of motorcycle helmets, several rating systems are commonly used. These include:

Department of Transportation (DOT) standards

The DOT is a US agency that sets safety standards for various products, including helmets. To meet these standards, helmet manufacturers must conduct a series of impact tests to ensure that the helmet can protect the head in a crash.

Snell Memorial Foundation standards

The Snell Memorial Foundation is an independent, non-profit organization that sets safety standards for helmets.

In addition to the impact testing required by the DOT, Snell standards also include additional testing for penetration resistance and retention system performance.

Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) standards

The ECE is a United Nations agency that sets safety standards for various products, including helmets. These standards are widely used in Europe and other parts of the world.

The Pros and Cons of Half Helmets Designs

Half-helmets offer several benefits to riders. However, the pros and cons of half-helmets include the following:

Pros

Improved visibility

Half helmets offer an unobstructed view of the road and surroundings, which can be a key factor for riders who want the best visibility possible. 

This can be especially important when visibility is limited, such as during rain or at night.

Comfort

Half-helmets are generally more comfortable than full-face helmets. In addition, they are lighter and more compact, making them a good choice for riders who find full-face helmets too heavy or cumbersome.

Style

Half-helmets are often more stylish than full-face helmets. They offer a more streamlined look and may be a good choice for riders who want to show off their style.

Despite these benefits, half-helmets have some potential drawbacks. Some of the main drawbacks of half-helmets include the following:

Cons

Lack of coverage

Half-helmets offer less coverage than full-face helmets, which means they may offer less protection for the face and neck in the event of a crash. This can be a key factor for riders who want maximum protection.

Increased risk of injury

Some studies have found that riders who wear half-helmets are more likely to suffer from serious injuries in the event of a crash compared to riders who wear full-face helmets.

This is due to the lack of coverage for the face and neck, which can be more vulnerable to crash injuries.

Noise

Half-helmets may be louder than full-face helmets as they offer less protection from wind noise. This can be a key factor for riders who want a quieter riding experience.

Overall, it’s important to consider the trade-offs between the benefits and drawbacks of half-helmets when deciding whether this style is right for you.

Alternatives to Half helmets

Several other options offer more protection if you’re considering a half-helmet design but are concerned about the lack of coverage. Some of the main alternatives to half helmets include:

Full-face helmets

Full-face helmets offer the most coverage of any helmet design. They cover the entire head, including the face and neck, and offer maximum protection during a crash. 

However, they may be less comfortable to wear and offer less visibility than half-helmets.

Modular helmets

Modular helmets are a hybrid between full-face and half-helmets. They feature a hinged design that allows the front of the helmet to flip up, exposing the face. 

This can be an option for riders who want the protection of a full-face helmet but also want the convenience of exposing their face when needed. 

Modular helmets may offer less protection than full-face helmets in the event of a crash but more protection than half-helmets.

Three-quarter helmets

Three-quarter helmets offer more coverage than half-helmets but less coverage than full-face helmets. 

They cover the head’s top and back but expose the face. This can be a good option for riders who want more protection than a half-helmet design but still want an unobstructed view.

When choosing the right helmet design, it’s important to consider the trade-offs between safety, comfort, and style. 

Full-face helmets offer the most protection in a crash but may be less comfortable to wear and offer less visibility. 

Half-helmets offer the least protection but may be more comfortable and offer better visibility. 

Modular and three-quarter helmets offer a middle ground, with more coverage than half-helmets but less than full-face helmets. 

The right helmet design will ultimately depend on your personal preferences and needs.

How Do You Break in a Half Helmet?

Breaking in a half helmet is a process that can help the helmet feel more comfortable and conform to the shape of your head over time. Here are some steps you can follow to break in a new half-helmet:

Wear the helmet for short periods

When you first get a new half helmet, it’s a good idea to wear it for short periods to allow your head to adjust to the fit. 

This can help prevent discomfort or pressure points that may occur if you wear the helmet for long periods right away.

Adjust the fit

Half-helmets come with an adjustable retention system, such as a chin strap or ratcheting mechanism, that allows you to fine-tune the helmet’s fit. 

Adjust the helmet’s fit to your head size and shape to ensure a comfortable and secure fit.

Wear the helmet during the day

To help break in the helmet, try wearing it while doing everyday activities, such as running errands or walking. 

This can help the helmet conform to the shape of your head and may make it feel more comfortable over time.

Use a helmet liner

Some half-helmets come with a removable liner that can help improve the fit and comfort of the helmet. If your helmet comes with a liner, try using it to help break in the helmet and make it feel more comfortable.

By following these steps, you can help your new half-helmet feel more comfortable and conform to the shape of your head over time.

Are Half Helmets Cold?

Half-helmets may be colder to wear than full-face helmets, as they offer less coverage for the face and neck. This can be a key factor to consider if you plan to ride in cold weather.

To help keep your head warm while wearing a half-helmet, you can try the following tips:

Wear a warm hat or balaclava 

Adding an extra insulation layer can help keep your head warm while riding. 

For example, a hat or balaclava can provide an extra layer of warmth and can be easily removed if you feel too warm.

Invest in a heated helmet liner

Some helmets have built-in heating elements that help keep your head warm while riding. 

These liners are typically powered by a battery pack and can be easily removed if you feel too warm.

Use a neck gaiter or scarf

Wearing a neck gaiter or scarf can help keep your neck and lower face warm while riding. 

These garments are easy to remove if you feel too warm and can be tucked into the collar of your jacket or coat for added insulation.

Do Half Helmets Weigh Less?

Half helmets typically weigh less than full-face helmets because they cover less of the head and have less material. 

This can make them more comfortable to wear for extended periods, particularly in hot weather

However, the reduced weight of a half helmet also means that they offer less protection than a full-face helmet in the event of an accident.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, half-helmet helmets offer advantages over full-face helmets, such as increased visibility and cooler temperatures in hot weather

However, they also have some drawbacks, including less protection in an accident. The half helmet may be suitable for certain types of riding or in certain conditions. 

Still, it is important to consider the trade-offs and choose a helmet appropriate for the activity and the level of risk involved.

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