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Is Your Motorcycle Helmet Safe? Learn How to Identify Dangerous Motorcycle Helmets

Head injuries are the leading cause of death in Wisconsin motorcycle crashes. Wearing a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) certified motorcycle helmet reduces the risk of death in a motorcycle accident by 37%.

A DOT certification means that the helmet meets Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 218, a minimum standard of protection. All motorcycle helmets sold in the United States must carry this certification; however, there are exceptions.

Helmets sold as novelty items rather than as safety equipment may not meet FMVSS 218’s requirements. These include German Army style or skullcap style helmets. Some motorcyclists don’t realize that these helmets don’t offer the same protection as DOT-certified helmets. Others realize that these helmets are not as safe but still choose to wear them.

In this article, the Wausau motorcycle accident attorneys of Hupy and Abraham explain the differences between...

DOT-Certified Helmets vs. Novelty Motorcycle Helmets

  • A DOT-certified helmet has a thick inner liner. FMVSS 218’s requires that motorcycle helmets have an inner liner. In most DOT-certified helmets, this inner liner consists of a one-inch thick layer of polystyrene foam. It may not be visible, but you should be able to feel it as a firm, thick layer. Helmets with no padding or soft foam padding do not meet DOT standards.
  • A DOT-certified helmet must have sturdy chinstraps with solid rivets. A helmet is not effective if it flies off in a motorcycle accident.
  • A DOT-certified helmet will feel heavy. A helmet that meets FMVSS 218 requirements weighs approximately three pounds. They feel more substantial than lighter-weight novelty helmets.
  • Spikes and other protruding decorations are signs of a novelty helmet. DOT standards state that any attachments or decorations may not extend more than 0.2 inches from the helmet. A visor meets this standard; Viking horns do not.
  • A full-face design is usually a good sign that a helmet meets DOT certification. Full-face novelty helmets are rare.
  • Helmets that meet FMVSS 218 have a “DOT” sticker on the outside back. This sticker is on all helmets that meet minimum government safety standards. The manufacturer must place the sticker on the helmet. Some novelty dealers sell counterfeit “DOT” stickers to put on novelty helmets. These stickers are not valid.
  • A good helmet may have other certifications in addition to the “DOT” sticker. Other valid U.S. safety certifications include Snell or the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards. 
  • All DOT-certified helmets are required to have manufacturer’s labeling. Under FMVSS 218, manufacturers are required to place a label on or inside the helmet with the following information:
    • Manufacturer’s name
    • Helmet model number
    • Helmet size
    • Month and year the helmet was manufactured
    • Construction materials
    • Owner information
    • A helmet without this label does not meet DOT standards.


The Wisconsin rider injury lawyers of Hupy and Abraham offer a free copy of our book for you to request with further information about motorcycle crashes, insurance, FAQs, and more: The Ultimate Guide for Motorcycle Accident Victims.

If you would like to discuss a Wisconsin motorcycle accident claim, don't hesitate to contact Hupy and Abraham today for a free, confidential, no-obligation consultation, toll-free at 800-800-5678. We will tell you how we would get you the maximum available compensation for your injuries, damaged property, medical bills and lost wages.