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How much extra safety would a crash helmet offer a highway driver wearing a seatbelt?
December 5, 2012 7:10 AM   Subscribe

How much extra safety would a crash helmet offer a highway driver wearing a seatbelt?

In other words: Are the injuries that kill seatbelted highway drivers generally ones that involve injury to the skull? Or are they ones - like broken necks or exsanguination - that a crash helmet wouldn't prevent?
posted by Egg Shen to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Here's a link to the FARS Encyclopedia. (Fatality Analysis Reporting System)

Interestingly enough there are VERY few deaths attributed to vehicle accidents. Only 30,196 in the entire United States. (If I'm reading that right, I mean, that's NOTHING!)

Of those, 4,502 were motorcyclists. 5,080 were pedestrians or bicyclists.

31% of those who died were in alcohol related accidents.

So, if you don't drink and drive, you wear your seatbelt, you're in a car, and your car has airbags, I'm thinking the helmet is overkill.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:23 AM on December 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'd imagine that taking account of the greatly limited field of vision and sound insulation, the cocooned motorist wearing a helmet would be much likelier to crash.
posted by pines at 7:26 AM on December 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


A German-style helmet would not limit vision or hearing. It would add protection against trauma to the head, but I am not sure what percentage of automobile motorist fatalities are ultimately caused by head trauma.
posted by Tanizaki at 7:52 AM on December 5, 2012


They're definitely a thing.
(note: linked articles are of the point-and-laugh variety)
posted by scruss at 8:01 AM on December 5, 2012


I think the whole point in wearing a helmet, either for motorists or motorcyclists, is not to prevent death but to prevent those types of injuries that are going to make you a drooling vegetable for the rest of your life. As a motorcyclist, I am not under the illusion that my helmet is going to save my life in an average accident but it will prevent traumatic head injuries for simpler falls or bangs. Even in a car accident with a driver wearing a seatbelt there is a lot of serious head banging against side windows or steering wheels that is not healthy.
posted by JJ86 at 8:13 AM on December 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't think race car drivers would wear them if they weren't effective and no reason to think they wouldn't be effective for ordinary drivers also.
posted by canoehead at 8:29 AM on December 5, 2012


Race cars don't have airbags (weight and that they don't deploy fast enough at race car speeds), so they must compensate somehow... ie helmets. I kinda suspect a four point harness would be more effective than a helmet for everyday use. But, any modern car with side airbags etc is going to be pretty safe in any but the worst of crashes.
posted by edgeways at 8:39 AM on December 5, 2012


I don't think race car drivers would wear them if they weren't effective

Race cars aren't built like normal passenger cars. I don't believe that they have airbags (for one).

The helmets in scruss's link are 30 years old. So much safety has been built into autos that you'd have to be in a pretty dramatic accident to be killed.

Here's some more information.

In 51% of fatalities, the occupants were unrestrained. If you're not buckling up, I'm thinking you're not wearing a helmet either.

I'm having a heck of a time finding statistics for the cause of fatal injuries in car accidents. I know the CDC/MMWR does surveillece on these things, but I'd love a breakdown of the exact nature of the fatal injuries.

Lots of interesting statistics. One of which is that I live in a pretty dangerous area to operate a motor vehicle.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:57 AM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Your question's much too broad. How much "extra safety" can anything offer? "Extra safety" isn't something that can be measured.
posted by Rash at 9:04 AM on December 5, 2012


Copenhagenize and other bicycle advocacy site love talking about motorist helmets as part of their bike helmet choice campaign. Here's an example but there's lots more if you look.

The bike sites hold them up as a fun counter-argument to bike helmet laws, but there really are companies trying to market these.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 9:28 AM on December 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


I had a friend whose father was killed by a t-bone collision that resulted in his head hitting the door window and causing brain injury, coma and then death. I imagine this would have been prevented by a helmet.
posted by srboisvert at 9:51 AM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


The weight of the helmet can put much more stress on your neck in an accident if you are seatbelted. I believe modern racing helmets include a kind of harness with a rigid structure that sits on the shoulders and has straps to prevent your head from flying forward due to the weight of the helmet. It's not standard off-the-shelf equipment.
posted by stopgap at 9:53 AM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


stopgap: "The weight of the helmet can put much more stress on your neck in an accident if you are seatbelted. I believe modern racing helmets include a kind of harness with a rigid structure that sits on the shoulders and has straps to prevent your head from flying forward due to the weight of the helmet. It's not standard off-the-shelf equipment."

Dale Sr died as a result of his head snapping forward. Today's racers have a tether that limits the forward movement of their head in the event of a crash.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:35 AM on December 5, 2012


I've seen a lot of motor vehicle accidents and the majority of serious injuries have been to the legs, hips and torso. The profile has changed a bit with mandatory seat belt use and the advent of airbags, naturally. But with two cars colliding, most damage to the vehicles still happens below the window line. You'd probably gain more protection wearing a football player's leg and hip pads than you would wearing a helmet.
posted by tommasz at 11:40 AM on December 5, 2012


I know a very senior trauma surgeon who wears a helmet, but only when driving his Smart car, not his regular sized car. So that's the balance that made sense to a guy who deals with traffic accident victims all day.
posted by crabintheocean at 12:42 PM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I had a friend whose father was killed by a t-bone collision that resulted in his head hitting the door window and causing brain injury, coma and then death. I imagine this would have been prevented by a helmet.

Or side-impact air bags, which are pretty standard now.

I was in a rear-end crash in 1994, I lost 2 discs and have perpetual back problems.

I was hit again in a rear-end crash last year, the guy was driving a bit faster, so the impact was greater.

I had no problems from that at all. The difference? 17 years of automobile safety improvements.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:07 PM on December 5, 2012


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