Concerns About Bluetooth Helmets

A few companies have begun to market Bluetooth helmets for motorcycle riders. In essence they send an FM radio signal from a transmitter on the bike to a receiver located within the helmet worn by the motorcyclist.

The receivers are usually made with an earphone which is kept in place by a headband or a neck strap. Some of these helmets are also equipped with a microphone that places it within easy reach of the rider.

This article is not to encourage or discourage use of Bluetooth helmets, but instead points out issues associated with them. These are some things you may wish to consider before buying one, especially if you are purchasing it for someone else who will be using it on their motorcycle.

 

The first issue is not whether Bluetooth helmets work or not, but the integrity of the helmet itself.

Just as it is important to know how long a helmet has been in a store window before purchase, a buyer should realize that wearing a Bluetooth device can significantly reduce structural integrity, especially if it’s on the lower part of the helmet. An article in the Dallas Morning News outlines this reduced structural integrity problem. The writer suggests that, “FM helmets may be cool and convenient, but they’re missing the necessary ingredients to provide protection far greater than traditional helmets.”

The article goes on to explain that FM helmets do not meet DOT standards because:

1) They lack a hard outer shell. It increases the risk of neck injury. Just as impact testing is critical to head protection, so is the ability of a helmet to absorb and distribute force along the neck. A traditional helmet can spread energy and momentum across its surface, reducing pressure on vulnerable parts of the skull and spine. Bluetooth helmets do not offer this type of protection because of this lack. These devices can also increase the risk of cervical spine injuries. Since the receivers are attached to the helmet itself, many companies just use a liner to protect against penetration. However, the liner is not designed to absorb massive impact.

2) They lack a way to attach chin straps securely due to their open face design. Without proper chin strap retention, the helmet becomes a projectile in an accident and will most likely come off or be easily removed by emergency responders and/or others at the scene of an accident. Since they lack a chin strap and face shield, the only real way to keep them securely in place is by using an elastic band around the back of the head. These bands can stretch and slip, further reducing the ability to retain the helmet in an accident.

3) They lack impact absorption material in the crown of the head. Bluetooth helmets do not offer this type of protection because they are made up of several layers of fabric covering a thin layer of plastic or fiberglass. This is not enough padding for riders in accidents and may put them at risk for serious head injuries.

The DOT standard requires impact absorption material to be at least 1.18″ thick. Even if helmets are FM-certified by the U.S. Department of Transportation, they still do not provide the same protection motorcycles riders count on when making a head-first crash landing. Wearing these devices under traditional or novelty helmets can lead to lacerations and other injuries without the added safety provided by DOT approved, impact absorbing helmets.

4) They don’t provide enough room for eyeglass frames when worn with prescription glasses or sunglasses. This means that some corrective lenses may not fit under the device, so riders would need to choose between safety and eye protection.

The article further points out that FM helmets are not allowed to be worn in states that have a helmet law. This combined with the reduced structural integrity does not bode well for anyone who decides to wear this type of helmet.

5) They are not endorsed by any existing motorcycle safety organizations. Bluetooth helmets are lacking several important design elements that have stood the test of time in providing protection to riders. Even some novelty helmets meet DOT standards, so new riders should only consider using one of these options if it has been tested for performance

6) The article also points out that another reason to avoid FM helmets is their cost. A Bluetooth helmet may cost over $300 while a DOT approved helmet can cost in the area of $80. The reporter suggests that if FM helmets were to be DOT approved and manufactured with the same quality and durability as a traditional helmet, their price would skyrocket even higher than $300.

With the lower part of the helmet being compromised, consumers need to carefully consider whether or not wearing a Bluetooth device will potentially compromise safety while riding on their motorcycles. We suggests that you “spend some time reviewing the facts and making a decision that will not only protect your head, but also your wallet.”

 

The second issue is related to eyeglasses or sunglasses, which are important safety items on their own.

Wearing prescription glasses while riding without corrective lenses can be especially dangerous because of the additional glare that can be caused by sunlight or other light sources. The typical headgear does not provide enough space for eyewear, which is another reason this style of helmet was rejected when it came to DOT approval.

 

The third issue also related to eyeglasses is the potential for damage when something gets in between the helmet and the face.

This issue is especially important to those who wear prescription glasses or sunglasses, but could affect anyone. Reportedly, there have been “eyeglasses wearers” that have had their eye wear damaged as a result of this contact with another object.

 

The fourth issue is the sound quality of the helmet. 

The transmitter and receiver need to be in close proximity, but still maintain a clear signal between them so that both can hear what’s being said over the telephone or radio. It was found in one test that the FM speakers used in Bluetooth helmets were only able to produce sound when within a 10-cm radius of the receiver, and that as soon as it was taken beyond this range the sound quickly deteriorated. In some tests it was found that once removed from this 10-cm radius, even going back to within 3 or 4 cm of the receiver did not return the sound quality to what it had been when closer.

 

The fifth issue has to do with hearing.

 Many Bluetooth helmets are equipped with earphones that reduce ambient noise. The dampening of outside noises, however, can actually cause hearing damage if the rider is unable to hear surrounding traffic.

 

The six issue relates to battery life.

 It takes a lot of power for FM radios to transmit signals, especially at distances between. If there are many obstructions along the way, such as buildings and trees, the signal may not reach its destination. To solve this problem some helmets have an additional battery pack while others simply require recharging after a while. This can be inconvenient if the rider wants to use them for extended periods of time.

These are just a few of the issues that someone should consider before purchasing a Bluetooth helmet.

 

Conclusion

If you’ve read this far, you know that there are some concerns about bluetooth helmets. But the question is whether or not these issues outweigh the benefits of a wireless connection to your phone and other riders in your group. We think it depends on what type of riding you do. For example, if you ride primarily long distances by yourself with no one else around for miles, then yes Bluetooth may be too distracting for safe driving conditions. On the other hand, if most of your rides are short distance trips where cell service is spotty at best because of mountains or buildings blocking reception and even when it does work well enough to make calls safely then being able to communicate wirelessly could save lives. 

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About Our Blog

We at Ridersbeat are bike lovers at our core. We like it big and loud. Through our thorough research and long-time experience in riding bikes, we aim to share information to help you choose the best motorcycle speakers for you.

As riders, we have an understanding of how a motorcycle works and other related stuff about it. However, our focus is on motorcycle speakers because we like to add sounds to our bikes to add a more exciting experience during every ride.

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