What does the DoD think of motorcycle helmets?  Not much, according to this test report!!


I'm a defense contractor working for the Department of Defense at <location withheld by request>.  I have a 98 FXSTC which is my 3rd Harley, been riding about 20+ years and I've been reading a lot about helmet laws and have been hoping the Maryland helmet law would be rescinded but it doesn't look good for this year. There was a lot of effort by many people but the safety nazis over rode another freedom of choice decision. I've sent numerous letters asking for the repeal myself and every response comes back to safety issues and cost vice the real reason which is freedom of choice. Since every response only talks of safety I decided to look into some military testing on helmets to see what I could come up with and found several interesting reports from the US Army Aeromedical Research Lab:

USAARL Report No 88-15 / Biodynamics Research Division / SPH-4 US Army Flight Helmet Performance 1983 -1987 / Peter Vyrnwy-Jones, Bernard Lanoue, Douglas Pritts / August 1988

Basic conclusions:
1. The most common sites for helmet impacts are frontal (38%) and lateral (30%). The rear of the helmet was involved infrequently and severe damage invariably was associated with nonsurvivable accidents.
2. N/A
3. Abrasion, delamination, and fracture were the most frequently recorded type of helmet damage. Punctures were rare and associated with nonsurvivable accidents.
4. Helmet standards which require the use of hemispherical impact surfaces and puncture resistance testing are unrealistic and bear no relation to the type of helmet damage actually observed in practice.
5. Earcup damage continues to be a major problem and basilr skull fractures correspondingly were the most common single type of skull fracture sustained.
6. - 9. to much to write right now.
10. Helmet loss, rotation, and stability remain a major problem. The factors mainly responsible are: The improved dot fasteners continue to fail in survivable accidents. The retention tab system is of inadequate and variable strength. The napestrap does not appear to prevent the forward rotation of the helmet during impact sequence. Foam liner protection is inadequate in the frontal and lateral areas, where most impacts occur. Over 90% of all amnesia or unconsciousness were subsequent to frontal, lateral or facial impacts. There is a concern about the quality of helmet fit in the field as opposed to laboratory conditions. I have more info and a lot more detailed such as methods of tests etc, and I'm more than willing to send a copy of them if they could be of some use.

Editor's notes:  This (item 10) is an important finding!   Those of us who are experienced Riders know that in severe crashes, helmets and Riders often part company.  And since the helmet is no longer on the Rider's head, unless the Police do a little investigating, the accident is charged as one where the Rider was operating helmetless even though this was not the case.  And of course "Experts" like Dr. Governor Kitzhaber would be treating this individual in his little emergency room thinking that he/she did not have a helmet on when in fact, this was not the case at all!  And finally, since the crash was obviously severe, another fatality would be chalked up in NHTSA's not-wearing-a-helmet column even though the fact is that the Rider *WAS* wearing a helmet that was incapable of saving his/her life...

Notes from information source:
USAARL Report No. 85-5 Dynamics of Head Protection does impact protective comparison of the SPH-4 flight helmet to a commercial motorcycle helmet.  The first conclusion from that report states: The motorcycle helmets tested would not provide adequate force attenuation to prevent concussion and/or more serious injury at all energy levels associated with a drop height greater than 1-meter !!!!. [emphasis Ed] USAARL Report No.86-11 Improved Design Criteria for Crash Helmets test motorcycle helmets as well.

Thanks to:
    <Name withheld by request due to fear of reprisals>

Copies of this and similar reports may be obtained from:
    United States Army
    Aeromedical Research Laboratory
    Fort Rucker
    Alabama 36362-5292


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