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Safety Gear - The Real World
Differences between half-shell and full-face helmets

By: James R. Davis

It occurs to me that sometimes we provide the simplest answers to questions here - adequate to be meaningful, but not necessarily sufficient to be educational. It is not laziness on our part. It is the medium we have chosen to share our thoughts with. Our readers want us to be direct and responsive, but do not expect an answer to take two pages of text.

So when asked what the differences are between various helmet designs, you can be sure that the answers usually describe their sizes and how much of the head is protected by each.

But you do not expect the following, for example, when describing the differences between a half-shell and full-face helmet:

  • The half-shell provides comfort for the wearer who believes that helmet laws are unjust - they are 'minimalist' in terms of protection and can be viewed as a 'protest statement' without inviting a ticket. The full-face helmet, on the other hand, provides maximum protection but are heavier and less comfortable than half-shells.
  • The half-shell helmet provides adequate protection for the top of the head, only, and is ideal if you should land on the top of your head when you hit the ground - something that is rather rare in the real world. A full-face helmet provides protection for the entire head and part of your neck
  • A half-shell helmet, when provided to your passenger - say your wife, for example - says that their pretty face should be shared by the world, until an accident occurs. Thereafter, because more than a third of the time when he/she hits the ground with their head, it will be a face plant. The crushed eye socket, broken or torn off nose, crushed cheek bones, lacerated eyebrows and eye lids, split (wide) upper lip, fractured upper mandible, broken teeth, lost tip of tongue from having bitten it off, teeth protruding through lower lip, all lower teeth broken off below the gum line, broken jaw, and lacerations about the upper neck will take many, many painful surgeries to repair (badly and with scars that will last a lifetime) and many months of recovery time before being able to present that now permanently broken face to the world. And, did I mention that migraine headaches will potentially happen EVERY DAY for years, if not life? And that says nothing about the brain damage that prevents him or her from being able to remember the names of the children or how many children there are? Full-face helmets, on the other hand, cost a little more than half-shell helmets.

Have you ever heard of the word 'consortium'? It is what you can lose in a spousal relationship as a result of an accident (and potentially collect handsomely for in court) and consists of the three "s's": Social, Services, and Sex.

Social are the things you used to do together, like travel, talk, play, party, engage and educate the kids, and so on.

Services include things like cleaning the house, cooking meals, taking the kids to school, balancing the checkbook, making the bed, earning part of the household income, and so on.

Sexual is sexual.

And you can lose all or part of all of that because you elect to provide your passenger spouse a half-shell instead of a full-face helmet.

But they are cheaper.

Maybe you wear a half-shell and never carry a passenger. Those things mentioned above are of no concern to you at the moment. They are problems you will leave for your parents or spouse. Because, never let it be said that you would let anything get in the way of your ability to make a choice - even if it's a bad one.

Besides, nobody in your riding group would be caught dead with a full-face helmet on.


Believe it - I've seen it more than once.

Final thought - 'DOT Approved' does NOT mean 'SAFE'.

Copyright © 1992 - 2024 by The Master Strategy Group, all rights reserved.

(James R. Davis is a recognized expert witness in the fields of Motorcycle Safety/Dynamics.)

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