When we last left off in our Safety Series presented we covered the importance of cages and roll bars. This time around, in Part 2 we will cover helmets and neck restraints to protect that very important noggin of yours. So without further delay lets dive right in and ask Dan of 425 MotorSports a few questions to get ourselves up to speed.
Circuit94: Ok Dan, so first questions first, obviously helmets are important to protect our heads, but what is the difference between a car and motorcycle helmet? Why can’t I just race with a motorcycle helmet?
Reiss: Automotive and Motorcycle helmets have different ratings. Although both are “Snell Rated”, Auto Helmets are SA-Rated and Motorcycle helmets are M-Rated. For all intents and purposes, Motorcycle helmets are good for use on Motorcycles and are made with a polyester liners while Automotive helmets are good for car, truck, boat, and other forms of 4-wheel racing and are made with Nomes (fire -resistant) liners. These two different types of helmets do have several other differences but both are safe for use with the type of application they were designed for. So, if you are racing a car, you will need an SA-rated helmet and the tech at your event will make sure you have the correct rating and current date. Keep in mind, the current rating is SA-2015 which is good until 2025. If you have a or find a deal for an SA-2010 helmet, it will be good until 2020. However, don’t be fooled by someone selling an older version as it will not pass tech.
Circuit94: Ah, good to know on the ratings and dates. Ok so now that we understand the difference between motorcycle and car, what about the differences in all of the different helmet prices, I mean some are ten times the price of others.
Reiss: As with anything, you get what you pay for. There is an old adage of which I I don’t generally agree with… “If you have a 2-dollar head, get a 2-dollar helmet”. Whatever your budget is, get a helmet that fits you well and make sure that it complies with the current SA-2015 Rating. There are several helmet brands and each brand usually offered a couple of different levels of helmets. The cheapest SA-2015 helmets will be the Open-Face helmets. These helmets do not have a can bar or a full-face visor. Therefore, they do not protect your eyes, nose or mouth. This is why we only recommend these helmets to instructors or new students. They are great for communications between the instructor and the student. Wen a student graduates from learning to drive on the track with an instructor, it is strongly recommended that they get a full face helmet that will offer more protection.
With full face helmets, you automatically get more protection than an open face can provide. Although, this is already a jump up in safety, there are different characteristics that set helmets apart and can cause the price to vary. For instance, and entry level full face helmet may cost $2-300.00 and will work but it is generally heavier, more bulky, doesn’t offer a lot of ventilation and is certainly not nearly as stylish as something a little higher in the price range. As you climb the price ladder, you will see that the helmets get sleeker in appearance, get much lighter, seem to be form fitted and become much more comfortable. You will see different materials offered from fiberglass, to composite, to complex laminate constructions all the way to carbon fiber. You will see better ventilation, inserts for Head and Neck Restraints and different options for aero-dynamics. On top of that, you may see options like forced induction for fresh air, drink tubes with bite-valves and Eject-systems that help remove the helmet without moving your head/neck if you are ever found unconscious.
When shopping for a helmet, you will find a lot of options with a lot of different prices. You should start by doing a little research and then trying them on. Once you find a place to try them on, try everyone on that you can and find the one that fits best for you. If that helmet is out of your budget, move down the line a little until you find a good compromise in fit, options, and price.
Circuit94: Great feedback and information, Dan, what would you say is the single most important thing to look at when buying a helmet?
Reiss: Fit. Make sure the helmet is as snug as possible without causing a headache. Make sure your eyes are in the center of the eye-port and make sure that your nose is not touching the front of the helmet as this will drive you nuts and will cause distraction when you should be focussing on your driving. Of course, make sure the rating is current and the price is in your budget.
Circuit94: With that said, what brands and types of helmets can I get at 425 motorsports?
Reiss: 425 Motorsports offers only the best in safety equipment. You won’t find the cheapest options out there but you will find a good range in prices from brands that offer the highest quality of helmets on the market. In no particular order, we offer Arai, Bell, HJC, OMP, Sparco and Stilo.
Circuit94: Good to know, ok so moving on from helmets, what are neck restraints and how do they work?
Reiss: Head and Neck restraints really finish off a safety system in a car. If you tuned in to the previous Safety Series, you learned a little about roll bars and roll cages, race seats and harnesses and then just a mention about helmets and Head & Neck restraints. Assuming you have upgraded your seats and possibly have a roll bar or cage in your car, you are likely going to purchase harnesses next. This is when a Head and Neck Restraint becomes impassive. When using a harness and synching yourself into the seat so you don’t move, you feel great! You feel one with the car and gain a confidence that will literally take seconds off of your lap times! However, your head, without a head and neck restraint becomes a bobble-head and in the event of an accident can theoretically pop off of your neck. Yes that is a terrible description and rather scary but honestly, you can sustain a major injury even at a low speed. The head and Neck Restraint sits on your shoulders, under your harnesses and becomes part of you when installed. It then has tethers that you will attach to your helmet. Once installed, it will slightly limit your ability to turn all the way to your left and right but it will keep your head attached to your body in and accident while warning harnesses and a helmet. Keep in mind, you cannot wear one of these with a stock 3-point seatbelt.
Circuit94: What type of different restraints are there? What is the reason or purpose of each? Which type to you recommend for which type or racing?
Reiss: There are a lot of different option for these devices and each brand is trying to offer a safer, more marketable product… of course! Each one is designed to protect you from a spinal/neck injury in an automotive racing accident. We prefer the simplest, most comfortable devices that have a proven track record of keeping drivers safe in accidents.
Circuit94: What brands and styles of neck restraints does 425 motorsports offer?
Reiss: With the above attributes in mind, we carry Hans, NecksGen and SHR. Remember, we only offer high quality products that we believe in.
Circuit94: What should an entry level racer look for when first getting in to neck restraints?
Reiss: Any and all racers at any level should consider a Head and Neck Restraint. I won’t push too hard for you to look at any one brand or style in particular. However, I would urge you to try them on and understand how to use the device you are looking at before you buy it. If it is difficult or has too many steps to follow before you are “connected”, you will likely forget or miss a step when your adrenaline is pumping. If it is too difficult, it become easy to just leave the device off altogether and drive with out it. If you buy a helmet, you will use it. If you buy a device, you should use it anytime you wear your helmet!
Circuit94: Awesome information as always Dan, thank you for answering our questions.
Reiss: Not a problem, thanks for having me again.
I hope you have enjoyed the second part of the Safety Series and hope that it has answered some of your safety questions. Tune in next time as we will be cover everything from head to toe.