Helmets saved the lives of at least 1,870 motorcyclists around the country in 2017, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that 750 riders who died would have survived if they had been wearing one. Virtually all media articles on motorcycle safety begin by urging riders to purchase a quality helmet and put it on every time they take to the roads, but finding head gear that is both comfortable and robust enough to provide protection in a crash can be difficult for some California riders.
While comfort is important, riders should avoid motorcycle helmets that are marketed as being lightweight and thin. Helmets that provide good protection are at least an inch thick and usually weigh about 3 pounds. Plastic buckles that can break in an accident are another sign of a poorly manufactured helmet. The NHTSA does not test or approve helmets sold in the United States, but it does maintain an online database of helmets that have been recalled due to safety concerns.
All helmets sold online and in retail stores in America must meet the Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, but many cheap and flimsy helmets bear counterfeit DOT stickers. Riders can reduce their risks by buying helmets directly from manufacturers or reputable dealers, and they should make safety rather than fashion their top priority.
There are also good legal reasons for wearing a helmet. In addition to facing fines in states like California with mandatory helmet laws, motorcyclists who do not wear helmets may be awarded lower damages if they take legal action against negligent drivers who injured them. This is because all road users are expected to do all that they reasonably can to avoid injury, and damages are awarded in California motorcycle accident lawsuits based on both the plaintiff's and the defendant's degree of fault under the legal principle of comparative negligence.
Source: Advocates for Auto and Highway Safety, "Motorcycle Helmets", accessed on June 20, 2019