The story of Suzanne Randa, a 49 year-old mother of four, is a sad one making its way around motorcycle circles on the internet. As CBS News, Randa was riding as a passenger on her fiance’s motorcycle down a California freeway, when the rider somehow lost control and crashed into the highway divider. Randa died instantly, many believe because she was wearing a novelty motorcycle helmet which snapped off upon impact.

The video above explains the rise of the novelty helmet, its utter worthlessness in a crash, and why riders should wear helmets which meet or exceed federal safety standards. The CBS News report was done in conjunction with Fair Warning, which conducted a thorough report on the issue.

Among the highlights: Fair Warning discovered U.S. traffic deaths have actually decreased in recent years, though motorcycle deaths are on the rise. Among the reasons, Fair Warnings says, is that riders aren’t wearing helmets or are wearing novelty helmets instead because of the substantial price difference compared to a helmet which meets government standards. As such, sales of novelty helmets are growing. Not surprisingly, so are the fatalities.

While novelty helmets are sold with disclaimers stating they are not for road use, many are sold at motorcycle shops or online retailers which sell legitimate motorcycle apparel, including D.O.T. approved helmets. Meanwhile, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, is trying to regulate and limit sales of novelty helmets while also encouraging strict enforcement of helmet laws.

Novelty helmets are legal to be sold because they explicitly state they aren’t for motorcycle use. However, that message is not being heard loud enough. In addition to the video above, the Fair Warning reports hurdles NHTSA will face in trying to get legislation through. Fortunately, its authority to regulate novelty helmets appeared bolstered last year by a change in federal law that puts motor vehicle equipment sold “with the apparent purpose” of safeguarding users within its jurisdiction. We’ll be paying close attention to see what progress NHTSA makes in its quest to make sure what happened to Suzanne Randa never happens again.

  • bbtowns

    When I visited my brother who had bought a new Harley after not riding for over 30 years. He had a pudding bowl style helmet, the chin straps actually snapped on to the helmet and it came with a “dot” novelty sticker. He was convinced it was the best money could buy as he’d got it from Harley dealer when he got his bike. Finally got him to switch to a Nolan full face after his wife’s helmet flew off at speed when one of her chin straps unsnapped.

  • mikey

    Can’t believe they sell this stuff, btw I’m looking for some novelty seatbelts for my car.

  • John Littau

    People who buy these helmets don’t want to wear one in the first place. It’s seen as an infringement on liberty. They buy this cheap helmet and a ‘D.O.T.’ sticker and slap it on the helmet.

  • John

    I used to sell motorcycles at a large Los Angeles dealership, and following a faceshield-grinding wreck (thank you distracted, left turning cager) I placed the full-face helmet I was wearing on the shelf behind my desk for all customers to see that if they choose to wear even a DOT-approved half-or-three-quarter helmet, they run the risk of having their faces ground to a pulp.