As motorcycle owners, some of the attorneys at Handler, Henning & Rosenberg LLC are well aware of the “five-year rule.” Most motorcycle riders are told to replace their helmets every five years as a rule of thumb, but some people dismiss the rule as clever marketing by the helmet manufacturers. And while, certainly, there are some non-safety concerns involved with recommending the five-year rule, for the most part it is a rule based on science and engineering, not marketing.
The five-year rule is largely based on research from the Snell Memorial Foundation (an organization that researches helmet safety) as well as consensus from manufacturers about how long helmets will remain safe with regular use.
Insurance Reasons for Five-Year Rule
Racetracks and racing organizations may also have helped develop the five-year rule (or at least started using it) as a result from pressure from insurers to standardize their safety practices. Racing organizations will often replace helmets within a five-year period, regardless of what condition it’s in. This is for safety, yes, but also to ensure that riders are properly insured according to their policies.
What Wears Down the Motorcycle Helmet
Here’s the gist: over the course of a helmet’s life, its padding will wear out. The helmet liner might become loose or wear thin, causing the helmet to sit loosely on the rider’s head. This makes it more and more unsafe to wear over time, although how long a helmet will last depends a lot on a.) the intensity of use, and b.) the build quality of the helmet.
The act of wearing a helmet is what wears it down, which is why frequency of use matters. Someone who goes riding once a week for pleasure will be able to use the same helmet for far longer than someone who commutes to work in their helmet every day. The key is that five years of regular use is the rule. If a helmet sits in your closet for five years, it’ll still deteriorate, but much more slowly.
At the same time, build quality is also a factor. A well-made helmet will last much longer under frequent use than a cheaply made model. When asking if it’s time to replace your helmet, it might be better to consider its condition. Does it still sit tightly on your head when you have the retention systems in place? When you shake your head, does it turn on its own? Does the manufacturer have a recommendation for how long it lasts?
And, of course, remember that helmets are a single-use item. Once your helmet has suffered a significant impact, it must be replaced. Helmets aren’t designed to remain safe after a big hit. If you were in a motorcycle accident, replace your helmet!
If you or a loved one were in a serious motorcycle accident, the best way to secure your future isn’t just buying another helmet—it’s making sure you recover everything you lost: medical bills, lost wages, etc. Speak with us at (888) 498-3023 for a free consultation to learn your recovery options.