There used to be a time when the suitability of helmets as a piece of safety equipment was debated upon. That was a long time ago. Now, we can all agree on the fact that helmets are super useful when riding any two-wheeler.
However, a debate has arisen nowadays on “whether white helmets are safer than any other colored helmets.” The answer to this question might not seem easy at first (I was confused too) until I learned about a term called “conspicuity” and its role.
Basically, conspicuity refers to the easiness of becoming visible to other drivers (especially heavy four-wheeler drivers). When you are on the road, you want to be seen clearly. It took me a long time to understand that my fellow drivers aren’t bad at what they do. They just cannot see some of the obstacles they come across.
If you look at this question through the prism of consciousness, then all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place.
According to a study, white motorcycle helmets are safer than darker colored helmets (such as black helmets), the important word being “darker.” I love the matte black aesthetic going on, but I need to keep in mind that colors that make me pop out more increase my safety. Red helmets do not necessarily have the same amount of visibility as a light-colored helmet, and hence it might put the driver at a risk of an accident. This doesn’t mean that dark-colored helmets are unsafe.
How Unsafe Are Dark-Colored Helmets?
A dark motorcycle helmet is all the rage nowadays. While the study did conclude the effectiveness of light-colored helmets (such as a white helmet), it also considered other data such as the color of the motorcycle, the color of the clothes, and the amount of ambient light present.
White motorcycle helmets are comparatively safer, but they are not the most visible color. The study concluded that colors such as orange and yellow stood the most out, and hence, were given the tag of safest “colored helmets.”
I personally prefer a yellow helmet, with stripes of black and orange present. This makes the helmet aesthetic to look at and also makes it stand out against the background, unlike black helmets, which are not invisible during night-outs.
Is a white motorcycle helmet enough as a precaution against accidents?
No. A white helmet (or any light-colored helmet) is a useful commodity to have, but it is not enough. The main job of a helmet is to prevent any head or neck injury in case of an accident. Conspicuity is the added by-product of its main use. Until recently, I used to strap my helmet on and leave for long drives with my friends. But now I realize the importance of my attire and the color of my cargo bag.
What else is important to increase my on-road visibility?
The cheapest way to increase your visibility on the road is to wear hi-viz helmets and clothes. The clothes should ideally have reflective tapes on them and sport colors that pop out (like neon or yellow). Additionally, you should also try keeping your headlights on at all times (yes, sir, including daytime), although you might have to check the legality of doing that in your state.
Subsequently, you should ensure that your cargo bag is covered in hi-vis clothes and is easily visible from a distance at all times. Finally, keep your wits about at all times. My mother shared with me a good mantra to remember whenever I am driving on busy roads – “All drivers are dumb.” I should not rely on the skill of other drivers to keep myself safe. I should keep all my senses focussed on the road, and that means no songs or calls.
There is only a certain level till which the visibility will keep you safe. In the end, the onus is on you to keep yourself safe while driving.
Does that mean that a dark helmet is useless?
Again, the answer is no. While the helmet’s color does play a role in keeping riders safe, not following the norm doesn’t make it unsafe. A red helmet is as equally viable as a black helmet. Both will respond similarly in times of a crisis. Bright colors are good to have but are not the only consideration to keep in mind. Many times, motorcycle crashes are not even related to other car drivers. It is due to a piece of faulty equipment or a lack of awareness.
Among all this plethora of information, you should keep in mind that you can choose any helmet according to your personal preference. Just ensure that a rider’s visibility is not hampered by any gimmick that your helmet might have. Light helmets, dark helmets are all safe when used in conjunction with other safety precautions mentioned.
Objectively, a white-colored helmet is safer than a dark helmet (such as a black helmet). But that isn’t the only deliverable you should be looking at while buying a helmet. A dark color helmet is like an aesthetic piece of art (at least for me), and knowing that other light-colored helmets are safer will not make me give it up completely. Conversely, this does mean that I will give a lot more thought to my safety gear than before. Fellow car drivers are experienced enough not to cause a problem, but don’t let that lull you into a fake sense of safety.
So go out and buy all the red motorcycle helmets you can find. But be sure to pair it up with good safety gear and high-vis clothes. Get on with your fellow motorcycle riders, and go on to that long-standing road trip that you have been putting off for so long.