Are Half Helmets Safe?

Motorcycle helmets are designed to provide protection for the rider’s head in the event of a crash.

However, not all motorcycle helmets are created equal. Half helmets, in particular, are a popular choice for many riders due to their lightweight design and stylish appearance. But the question often asked is: are half helmets safe?

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the safety standards, pros and cons, and the effectiveness of half helmets in protecting riders like yourself.

* Compared to full-face helmets, half helmets provide motorcyclists the least protection from head injuries.
* In order to be street legal, half helmets are DOT approved in the United States.
* Half helmets are lightweight, stylish, comfortable and inexpensive.
* Motorcyclists can prevent injuries by riding safely, wearing protective gear, and following traffic laws.

Are half helmets safe? It sure looks good on this woman with red hair wearing a half helmet riding her motorcycle.

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What is a Half Helmet?

Half helmets, often referred to as “brain buckets”, are a type of motorcycle helmet that provides minimal coverage to the rider’s head. They typically cover the top of the head and ears, but leave the face, and chin exposed.

Half helmets are popular among riders who prefer a more open, non-restrictive style and prefer the freedom of the open road.

Despite their popularity, half helmets do not provide the same level of coverage as full-face helmets or modular helmets.

Full-face helmets cover the entire head, including the face and chin, while modular helmets are similar but have a flip-up chin bar.

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Are Half Helmets Safe?

In a motorcycle crash, the rider’s head is particularly vulnerable to injury. The most common types of head injuries in motorcycle crashes are concussions, skull fractures, and traumatic brain injuries.

Studies have shown that wearing a helmet, regardless of its type, significantly reduces the risk of head injuries in a motorcycle crash. However, it is important to note that half helmets provide less protection than other types of helmets.

A 2011 study, ‘Effectiveness of different types of motorcycle helmets‘ stated, “Compared with motorcyclists wearing full-face helmets, those wearing half-coverage helmets were more than twice as likely to have head injuries and brain injuries”. Concluding that half helmets provided motorcyclists the least protection from head injuries.

Motorcycle helmets don’t prevent accidents. The best way to prevent injuries is to ride safely, wear protective gear, and follow traffic laws.

Woman with red hair wearing a black half helmet looking to her right.

Are Half Helmets DOT Approved?

All motorcycle helmets sold in the United States are required to meet safety standards set by the Department of Transportation (DOT). DOT safety standards require that the helmet meets specific impact absorption, penetration and retention system requirements.

In addition to DOT safety standards, some helmets may also meet the safety standards set by other organizations such as the Snell Memorial Foundation or the European Union’s ECE 22.06.

Half helmets are required to meet the same safety standards as all other motorcycle helmets, yet they clearly do not provide the same level of protective coverage as full-face or modular helmets.

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Pros and Cons of Half Helmets

Pros of Half Helmets

  • Lightweight and comfortable: Half helmets are lightweight and provide a more comfortable riding experience, especially on longer rides.
  • Offer more visibility and hearing ability: Half helmets do not cover the rider’s face and provide a wider field of vision and better hearing ability compared to full-face helmets.
  • Less expensive than full-face helmets: Half helmets are generally less expensive than full-face helmets, making them an attractive option for budget-conscious riders.
  • Stylish and popular among some riders: Half helmets are popular among riders who like the openness and the minimalistic style.

Cons of Half Helmets

  • Increased risk of injury in a crash: Half helmets do not provide as much protection as full-face or modular helmets and can result in more severe injuries in the event of a crash.
  • Less effective at reducing wind noise and wind blast: Half helmets do not offer the same level of noise reduction as full-face helmets and can result in hearing damage over time.
  • Reduced protection from bugs: Sure, you can wear goggles or sunglasses to shield your eyes, but bugs, dirt and small stones kicked up by oncoming traffic hitting your face can be dangerous.
A nan and a woman wearing half helmets riding a motorcycle in the desert.

Choosing the Right Helmet for You

When it comes to choosing a motorcycle helmet, there are many factors to consider, including safety, comfort, and style.

While half helmets may be a popular choice for some riders, it is important to keep in mind that they do not provide the same protection as full-face or modular helmets.

You may be the safest motorcycle rider in the world, but that guy driving the car is an unknown quantity. Choose a helmet that will protect you from him!

Also, whichever helmet you choose, be sure that it meets all safety standards and provides adequate protection for your riding style.


In conclusion, while half helmets are a popular choice by many and are required to meet the same safety standards as other motorcycle helmets, they do not provide as much protection as most other helmets.

Riders should carefully consider their riding style and needs when choosing a helmet and always prioritize safety over style. Regardless of the type of helmet you choose, wearing a helmet is one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself while riding a motorcycle.

I hope we have covered the question of ‘are half helmets safe’ to your satisfaction. If you enjoyed this article, take a look at the related reads below for some more interesting reads!

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