The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers guidelines that will help California motorcyclists select a safe helmet.

Bikers may wish to focus on fit and features when deciding which helmet to buy.

How do you decide proper fit?

Before purchasing a helmet, determine your head shape and size. NHTSA recommends that you look in the mirror to determine if your head shape is round oval, long oval or intermediate oval. You should use a cloth tape to measure your head, starting above your eyebrows and moving around to the thickest point at the back of your head. You will be able to check this measurement against a size chart.

Your well-fitted helmet should be a little tight, but not uncomfortable. NHTSA suggests that you test a helmet for pressure points before wearing it on a ride.

How can you identify an unsafe helmet?

Unsafe helmets may share certain traits that reveal their failure to meet safety guidelines:

  • They may have plastic buckles rather than durable chin straps and solid rivets.
  • Helmets advertised as thin or light-weight may not provide adequate protection. Safe helmets weigh roughly three pounds while unsafe helmets may weigh no more than a pound.
  • Helmets less than one inch thick or without a stiff foam inner lining may be unsafe.
  • Unusual decorations or designs may compromise safety. You should be wary of helmets with novelty features or extensions.

How do you know if your helmet meets federal standards?

While NHTSA will conduct random tests and invite consumer input, it relies on manufacturers to certify safety. Helmets that meet federal motor vehicle safety standards will have a label on the outside back that includes information about manufacturer/brand and model number. The label will also include “DOT” and “FMVSS No. 218 CERTIFIED.”

Helmets made before May 13, 2013 will have a label that reads “DOT.”