Helmet Safety Ratings and Standards

What are Helmet Safety Standards?

If you have been on the market for a motorcycle helmet, you may have noticed that there are different types of safety approved motorcycle helmets. The main three approved helmets are approved by DOT (Department of Transportation), SNELL (Snell Memorial Foundation), and ECE (Economic Commission for Europe). Each of these three entities holds the responsibility of setting the standard for a properly manufactured helmet, built with the highest safety standards in mind. 50 countries across Europe use the ECE standard. The DOT model is used in America, and Snell is the voluntary testing company that approves helmets to their own safety standards. A helmet can be approved by both the DOT and Snell.

What is the DOT Safety Standard?

The safety standards for helmets in the United States are set by the Department of Transportation, or DOT. The DOT standard is set through various types of tests; helmets go through an impact attenuation test, a penetration test and a retention system test.

1. Impact Attenuation Test

An impact attenuation test is when a helmet is placed onto a mannequin, then dropped and hit against different surfaces and different angles. This test would include areas like shock absorption. This test is important to make sure that helmets are durable enough to help prevent injuries like brain hemorrhages.

2. The Penetration Test

In order to test the penetration strength of a helmet, the DOT testing facility will drop different objects directly onto the helmet. By doing so, they can see how durable the helmet can be in the most extreme conditions.

3. The Retention System Test

The retention system test, tests the strength of the chinstrap on the helmet. Making sure that the retention system is not compromised at the time of a collision.

If a helmet passes these tests, it then must be visibly and permanently marked with a DOT approved label, manufacturer information, helmet size, model number and year of manufacture.

What is the Snell Standard?

The Snell standard, created by the Snell Foundation, is a private organization that helmet manufacturers go to, in order to have their products tested for durability. The Snell approval rating is a harder one to reach than a DOT or ECE approved helmet. Therefore, if you see a Snell Foundation label on your DOT approved helmet, you will know that it is a helmet built to the highest safety standards.  The only Helmets not tested by Snell are modular helmets. Modular helmets have a partially open face, or exposed mouth. Modular Helmets are tested by the ECE, or Economic Commission for Europe.

What is the ECE Safety Rating?

Like how the DOT safety rating is the standard in the United States, the ECE safety rating, is the standard for Europe. The ECE and DOT use the same testing methods, but they only differ in that the ECE requires that batches be tested before leaving the manufacturing facility. This gives them an advantage on quality control, compared to the DOT standard. The ECE also has a test for helmet peripheral vision, where the DOT does not. Besides that, they both have the same penetration, impact attenuation, and retention system tests.

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