I'm about to start daily bike commuting again after a long hiatus and want to go all out on safety. My fear of an accident is extreme enough that I am looking into regularly wearing body armor and a full-face helmet just for commuting. When I commuted previously, I felt like I was having near-death experiences on a weekly basis. Anyway, I'd love tips and recommendations on body armor and helmets that could maximize my safety in case of a big crash - especially stuff that comes in womens sizes. I know next to nothing about what is out there and have never done any mountain biking or the kind of sport biking for which people normally use the heavy duty safety gear. Putting on separate knee pads, elbow pads, etc. etc. seems like a huge pain to do twice a day, so I want to find something more like pull-on long-sleeved or short-sleeved top, and ditto for shorts or pants, that has the padding sewn in that I could wear under t-shirts & skort/skirt for summer. And solutions for winter as well. I'd love to get any tips. I'm considering just getting a padded waterproof motorcycle or ski outfit for winter.
Oh, and on helmet safety - are the skate/multisport helmets like Bern safer or less safe than traditional cycling helmets? Could one of those potentially be a better choice for commuting than a full-face MBX-style helmet?
A little more info about my commute: I live in Washington DC and go about 4.5 miles each way, and it's fairly steep downhill (going) and uphill (coming back). My bike is a very heavy electric assist model. Because of the electric assist, I don't have to worry about overheating as much as on a traditional bike, and I also have much quicker acceleration from a stop. Biking on my route is fairly dangerous, because cars constantly whip around right turns without even looking whether there are pedestrians or cyclists in the way (hence my many near-death experiences). Due to the heaviness of the bike and the speeds I reach going downhill, braking hard can also be dangerous. In addition, I will also be biking throughout the winter when my homeward leg will be in darkness. I was once rear-ended by a cab, and another time I had a braking problem and had a sidelong collision with a car as a result - thankfully no injuries those times, but given past experience I do not want to take any chances of orphaning my daughter!