Helmets and Face Protection; You Decide!

Norman Gregory FernandezThis subject is probably one of the most controversial topics in the motorcycle world. There are those that demand the right not to wear a helmet, and there are those who always wear helmets. Many states have laws requiring you to wear a DOT helmet, and some states allow riders to choose as to whether they want to wear a helmet or not.

When I started riding motorcycles or I should say mini bikes at the age of five, I thank my father for putting a helmet on my head. To this day I will never forget that day in 1968 when I first got on a mini bike and promptly crashed into a drainage ditch. When I hit my head on the pavement in the crash there was no damage to my head whatsoever because I was wearing the helmet. Who knows where I would be right now if was not wearing a helmet at that time. Thank you Dad.

Later on in my adult life I rode probably hundreds of thousands of miles wearing no helmet all. When laws were enacted in the state of California which required you to wear a helmet, I wore a novelty beanie helmet because I had to, not because I wanted to. As you all know these beanie helmets are just for show and are worthless in an accident.

Later on, I picked up a full face helmet to wear in bad weather, or on long runs through the desert at night when bugs are particularly nasty. However, I still wore either a beanie helmet, or no helmet all depending upon the state I was riding in.

This all changed for me when I started handling motorcycle accident cases as a lawyer. I have seen the horrible and grotesque results of motorcycle accident injuries which involve riders with no helmets.

After one of my good friends went down on the San Bernardino Freeway and was seriously injured, I decided to switch to a full face helmet for protection.

After much inner contemplation, I decided that I would rather have a face, then look cool. If you have ever seen someone who has lost their face in a motorcycle accident you would probably change your mind too. For me, I made the conscious decision to go for safety because I was not willing to live with the ramifications of going down knowing that I could do something to protect myself.

I have found that my rides are much more pleasurable with a full face helmet as well. Not only are you mostly protected from the suns burning rays, but you are protected from wind, road debris, and bugs as well. It is much easier to put in a 400 mile day on your motorcycle wearing a full face helmet, than without. You can look to your left and right while riding at speed and not have any wind fatigue on your face or eyes whatsoever.

Have you ever hit a June Bug while riding at 80 mph? I have. At first, I thought I was shot between the eyes on the forehead, and thought for sure that I was going to pass out after a few seconds, but I did not pass out. I had one heck of a welt on my forehead, the bug goo was everywhere. Had I been wearing my full face helmet at the time, it would have been no big deal.

Another benefit of the full face helmet is skin protection, not just from sunburn which can cause cancer, but from the stretching of the skin that occurs at high speed from the wind. If you ride for many years like I have, the last thing you want is for your skin to be wrinkled and leathered like a prune. The full face helmet will protect your facial skin from the ravages of the wind.

One more benefit of the full face helmet is partial protection from the loud noise that is part of motorcycling. Even if you ride a crotch rocket or a quiet bike, average wind noise and traffic noise can be deafening. The full face will give you partial ear protection as well.

Therefore, as a biker, and a motorcycle lawyer, I highly recommend that you wear a full face D.O.T. certified helmet for face and head protection at all times while riding a motorcycle.

I personally where a full face helmet of the new flip up variety so that I can flip up the helmet when I want to have a cigarette, or stop for gas, without having to take it the helmet off.

I would not force my views upon anybody, these are just my personal recommendations. I firmly believe that every motorcycle rider should have the right to choose.

There are many valid arguments for not wearing helmets, and for wearing helmets. Whatever you decide to do on this issue, remember this; are you willing to lose your face or brain in a motorcycle accident?

Be smart, wear the best possible helmet while riding. It could save your life and your face, your brain, and your life!

By Norman Gregory Fernandez, Esq. , Copyright 2006

12 Responses to Helmets and Face Protection; You Decide!

  1. Many of you reading this live in a state where wearing a helmet when riding is your choice.
    This is not intended to be an anti-helmet article so please hear me out. What I’d like to do is share my experience with injury from my helmet if you do choose to wear one – which by the way is a decision I support.

    Riding back home to California from Arizona Bike Week 2005 I took the scenic route. We rode to Las Vegas spent the night and rode the next day to Reno. The ride up Hwy 395 was very windy and the wind would change directions frequently being that close to the mountains. I was wearing a Harley Davidson half helmet with a small visor. The wind would often get around the windshield and catch the helmet, enough to jerk my head.

    When I got to Reno I had the worst headache of my life. Later that night I lost vision in my right eye completely. I rested the next day and things cleared although slowly. The following morning while packing to leave my left leg collapsed under me and I couldnÂ’t get up. The paramedics rushed me to the hospital where tests showed I had suffered a massive stroke.

    I was airlifted to UC San Francisco where a battery of tests showed my right carotid artery had dissected. This is a major break in the internal lining of the artery, similar to what happens if you crush a plastic straw. Dissections of this type are caused by blunt trauma. There have been many cases documented of riders receiving an injury like this during an accident, but mine is the only one I can find that occurred without an accident. Or perhaps others have had the same thing happen where the stroke hit while riding and caused the accident. That would be impossible to tell if you were lucky enough to survive.

    My purpose in writing and sharing my story is to hopefully educate other riders. As long as helmets are manufactured with the strap across the throat rather than the chin, wearing one does put you at risk for carotid artery damage. My life has been changed with limited use of my left side and IÂ’d like to help others avoid the same fate. If you do choose to wear a helmet as long as you still have the choice please consider a full face model.

    Please check out this website: This website describes how a chin strap across your throat can crush and damage the carotid arteries.

  2. Thanks so much both of you for your informative articles.
    I have just started riding at 61 after a 15 year break.
    and thank God the motorcycle mama who sold me my helmet
    and when I asked her about the half face versus full face
    she pushed the full face , saying most people fall on
    their face if they fall, I bought it and a full flack
    jacket, just need to get reinforced boots. Since I got
    back into motorcycling, I am continually at the compassion
    and intelligence of bikers, I think the sterotype about
    bikers is perpetuated to the non biker community so they
    stay away from us 0n the road and pay attention so as
    not to hit us,, take a break from the cell phone. tom

  3. I am looking for a full face DOT helmet. There are so many. How do you know if you are buying a good DOT helmet or one that is not as good as another one. I have seen prices from $ 59.99 to $ 700.00 dollars. I realize that one gets what he pays for but, why the tremendous difference in prices and they are all DOT?


  4. Someone who could have died as a kid were it not for his father telling him to wear a helmet, yet eschews helmets for years, then becomes a lawyer and finally dons a helmet after seeing grave injuries, cannot be all that bright.

    Why do so many people have to witness nastiness firsthand before they get a clue? This applies to all aspects of life, like global warming denial. Show them just data and they’ll deny it. Take them to Alaska, THEN they’ll understand.

  5. Motorbiking has been a very well known fashion for a very long time. Sometime we ride without helmet just to show off, but, safety should be taken care of first. According to me helmet is a must to wear for every body while riding a bike.

  6. I hear you Randy, I have been in the same boat as you. Right now I am using a Modular (flip up) full face helmet that is DOT and cost me about $110 bucks. It is not one of the super expensive ones.

    Check out this link:


    You have to cut and paste the entire link in your browser to get it to work. It is an article about finding the right helmet for you. You can also do a Google search for “motorcycle comparisons” to see some good articles on the subject.

    Hope this helps,


  7. Jim I do not know what my choice of wearing or not wearing a helmet has to do with Global Warming, but I guess anyone can make whatever analogies they want to suit their needs?

    I don’t want to get into a pissing match with you, but I would put up my IQ against yours anytime.

    My father put a helmet on my head when I was 4 or 5 years old, while riding a mini bike while dirt biking. This is a bit different than an adult making an informed decision as to whether they want to wear a helmet or not.

    There are valid arguments that wearing helmets can be dangerous in certain circumstances. When I wear a full face helmet my peripheral vision is certainly not as good which could cause me to be in an accident. However, I am probably safer in an accident with a helmet on.

    Debate all you want, however we don’t need the personal attacks on my blog.


  8. Great article! I am a pharmacist and have also seen the horrible remnants of a human face after, what could have been, an accident someone could have walked aways from vs the beanie helmet massacre it became. I wear as much protection as I can. Armored jeans with hip and knee protection, gloves with knuckle guards, riding boots and of course full helmet made by a reputable company. You absolutely CANNOT put a price on protecting you brain. That being said, I don’t care if you opt for the Gary Busey treatment or a beanie. All I can do is encourage you to protect yourself. Drivers are more distracted than ever before. Drive defensively, take or retake a motorcycle safety course in your area, and use your head…in a good way.

  9. Hello Norman.

    I’m all for the motorcycle helmets – I’ve been riding for more than 10 years on motorcycles now and I don’t imagine riding without the helmet on the roads. It gives protection not only in accidents in crashes, but because I had a good motorcycle helmet with hard visior it saved my eyes few times already – stones, flies and dirt flying with high speed hurts, belive me :)))

    Of course make sure that you are getting a quality helmet with safety standards – this won’t make you invincible on your bike but will make sure that the helmet won’t split into 2 parts (like the cheap, plastic ones do) leaving you without any protection – you could wear a plastic bowl and it would do the same, of course don’t, better wear a proper motorcycle helmet 😉

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