Motorcycle Helmet Safety Ratings | Everything Explained

Riding a motorcycle can be a thrilling and exhilarating experience. However, it is also a potentially dangerous activity, as motorcycle riders are more vulnerable to serious injury or death in the event of a crash or collision. That’s where a good quality motorcycle helmet comes in. 

A motorcycle helmet is a crucial piece of protective gear that can help reduce the risk of head injuries and fatalities in the event of an accident.

But with so many different brands and models of helmets on the market, how do you know which one is the best choice for you? 

One important factor to consider is the helmet’s safety rating. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at motorcycle helmet safety ratings and what they mean, as well as some tips for selecting a helmet that provides the best protection for you.

What Are Motorcycle Helmet Safety Ratings?

Motorcycle helmet safety ratings are a measure of the helmet’s ability to protect the wearer’s head in the event of a crash or collision. These ratings are typically assigned by independent organizations or agencies that conduct testing to determine the helmet’s level of performance.

There are several different rating systems used to evaluate the safety of motorcycle helmets, including the Department of Transportation (DOT), the Snell Memorial Foundation, the European Economic Community (EEC), and the SHARP.

Department of Transportation (DOT)

motorcycle helmet safety ratings

The Department of Transportation (DOT) sets safety standards for motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment in the United States. One aspect of these standards pertains to motorcycle helmet safety.

In order to be legally sold in the U.S., all motorcycle helmet models must meet the minimum safety standards set by the DOT. These standards are based on a series of tests that measure the helmet’s ability to protect the rider’s head and brain in the event of a crash.

The DOT testing standards for motorcycle helmets safety are as follows:

Impact Attenuation Test: This test measures the helmet’s ability to absorb energy during an impact. A head form (a dummy head) is dropped from a specified height onto a flat anvil, and sensors inside the head form measure the amount of g-force transmitted to the head. The helmet must reduce the g-force to a certain level in order to pass this test.

Penetration Test: This test measures the helmet’s resistance to penetration by a pointed object. A striker with a flat tip is dropped from a specified height onto the helmet, and the helmet must not allow the striker to penetrate through to the headform inside.

Retention System Test: This test measures the strength of the helmet’s chin strap and buckle. The helmet is placed on a headform and secured with the chin strap, and then a weight is applied to the back of the helmet in an attempt to pull it off the head form. The helmet must remain secured to the headform in order to pass this test.

In addition to these tests, the DOT also has requirements for the labeling and performance of motorcycle helmet visors.

Helmets that meet the DOT’s safety standards are required to have a permanent label on the inside that certifies that the helmet meets these standards. The label must include the manufacturer’s name, the model name or number, and the phrase “DOT FMVSS No. 218 Certified.”

It’s important to note that the DOT’s safety standards are minimum requirements, and there are other organizations that have more stringent testing protocols and rating systems for motorcycle helmet safety. One example is the Snell Memorial Foundation, which has its own set of safety standards and ratings for motorcycle helmet safety.

Snell Memorial Foundation

The Snell Memorial Foundation is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to research, education, and the development of safety standards for protective gear. One of the main areas that the Snell Foundation focuses on is the safety of helmets for various sports, including motorcycling.

The Snell Foundation has developed a set of safety standards for motorcycle helmets, known as the Snell M Standard. These standards are designed to ensure that helmets provide a high level of protection to the wearer in the event of an accident. In order to be certified under the Snell M Standard, a helmet must undergo a series of rigorous tests to measure its performance in various types of impacts.

The tests that are conducted to measure the performance of a helmet under the Snell M Standard include:

Impact Absorption: The helmet is dropped from a certain height onto an anvil, and the amount of force that is transmitted to the head form is measured.

Penetration Resistance: A sharp object is pressed against the helmet at a high force, and the ability of the helmet to prevent the object from penetrating through it is measured.

Retention System Strength: The strength of the straps and other retention systems that keep the helmet securely on the head is tested by pulling on the helmet with a certain amount of force.

Shell Penetration: The helmet is subjected to a series of blows from a sharp object, and the ability of the helmet to prevent the object from penetrating through the shell is measured.

Roll-Off Resistance: The helmet is placed on a dummy head, and the ability of the retention system to prevent the helmet from rolling off the head during an impact is tested.

These tests are designed to simulate the types of impacts that a helmet might experience in a real-world accident, and they help to ensure that helmets certified under the Snell M Standard provide a high level of protection to the wearer.

European Economic Community (EEC)

The European Economic Community (EEC) was a regional organization that aimed to bring about economic integration among its member states. It was established in 1957 and was succeeded by the European Union (EU). One of the areas in which the EEC focused was product safety, including the safety of motorcycle helmets.

The EEC developed a set of safety standards for motorcycle helmets called the ECE 22.05 standard. This standard specifies the minimum requirements for the design, performance, and testing of motorcycle helmets. The standard covers a wide range of safety criteria, including impact absorption, penetration resistance, retention system performance, and peripheral vision.

To determine whether a motorcycle helmet meets the ECE 22.05 standard, it must undergo a series of tests that are designed to simulate various types of impacts that a helmet may encounter in a crash. These tests include:

Impact Absorption Test: This test measures the ability of the helmet to absorb impact energy during a crash. The helmet is dropped from a predetermined height onto an anvil and the force of the impact is measured.

Penetration Test: This test measures the resistance of the helmet to penetration by a sharp object. A pointed object is dropped onto the helmet from a predetermined height and the depth of the penetration is measured.

Retention System Test: This test measures the performance of the helmet’s retention system (e.g., chin strap) under load. The helmet is attached to a test rig and subjected to a specified load to ensure that it remains securely on the head.

Peripheral Vision Test: This test measures the field of vision provided by the helmet. The wearer is asked to look at a series of objects at different angles while wearing the helmet to ensure that they have a sufficient field of vision.

If a helmet successfully passes all of these tests, it is deemed to meet the ECE 22.05 standard and is permitted to bear the ECE 22.05 mark. This mark is an indication that the helmet has been certified as meeting the minimum safety requirements set forth in the ECE 22.05 standard.

SHARP

SHARP (Safety Helmet and Assessment Rating Programme) is a UK-based organization that tests and rates the safety of motorcycle helmets. The organization was created in response to the lack of safety information available to consumers when purchasing a helmet.

To test the safety of a helmet, SHARP uses a series of impact tests and computer simulations to determine how well a helmet will protect the head of a rider in the event of a crash. The tests are designed to mimic the types of impacts that a helmet might experience in a real-world crash situation.

The results of these tests are used to assign each helmet a rating from 1 to 5 stars. A helmet with a higher number of stars is considered to be safer than a helmet with a lower number of stars. The star rating is meant to provide consumers with a quick and easy way to compare the safety of different helmet models.

In addition to the star rating, SHARP also provides detailed test results for each helmet on its website. These test results include information on how the helmet performed in each of the individual impact tests, as well as an overall assessment of the helmet’s safety.

It is important to note that SHARP is just one of several organizations that test and rate the safety of motorcycle helmets. However, SHARP is widely considered to be one of the most thorough and reliable helmet safety testing programs available.

Selecting a Safe Motorcycle Helmet

When selecting a motorcycle helmet, it’s important to choose one that is rated by a reputable organization and meets or exceeds the safety standards set by that organization.

Here are a few other factors to consider when selecting a safe motorcycle helmet:

Fit: A helmet that doesn’t fit properly is less effective at protecting your head. Choose a helmet that fits snugly and comfortably, without being too tight or too loose.

Weight: A heavy helmet can be more tiring to wear, which can lead to neck fatigue and reduce your ability to control the motorcycle. Choose a helmet that is as light as possible while still providing adequate protection.

Ventilation: A helmet with good ventilation will help keep you cool and comfortable, especially on hot days. Look for helmets with multiple vents or a ventilation system that allows air to circulate through the helmet.

Visibility: A helmet with a large, clear visor will provide a wider field of vision and improve your visibility while riding.

Noise Reduction: Wind noise can be a major distraction while riding, which can be dangerous. Look for a helmet with a shape and design that helps reduce wind noise.

Conclusion

A motorcycle helmet is an essential piece of protective gear that can help reduce the risk of head injuries and fatalities in the event of an accident. 

When selecting a helmet, it’s important to choose one that is rated by a reputable organization and meets or exceeds the safety standards set by that organization. 

By taking the time to research and select a safe motorcycle helmet, you can help protect yourself and enjoy the ride with confidence.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know if a motorcycle helmet is safe?

To ensure that a motorcycle helmet is safe, look for one that is rated by a reputable organization and meets or exceeds the safety standards set by that organization. You can also look for helmet models that have received positive reviews from other riders and have a good track record of performance.

How do I know if a motorcycle helmet fits properly?

A motorcycle helmet should fit snugly and comfortably, without being too tight or too loose. To test the fit, put the helmet on and fasten the retention system. Then, try moving your head from side to side and up and down. The helmet should stay securely in place and not shift or slide around.

How long does a motorcycle helmet last?

The lifespan of a motorcycle helmet depends on a variety of factors, including the quality of the materials used and the frequency of use. In general, a helmet should be replaced every five years or so, or sooner if it is damaged or shows signs of wear and tear.

How do I care for my motorcycle helmet?

To care for your motorcycle helmet, follow these tips:
Store the helmet in a cool, dry place when not in use
Avoid exposing the helmet to extreme temperatures or moisture
Clean the helmet regularly using a mild soap and water, and dry it thoroughly
Replace the lining and padding when they become worn or damaged
Avoid making any modifications or alterations to the helmet.

Arshad
Bikes and bike accessories are my passion, and I love sharing everything I learn about them. Whether you're looking for information about your bike, its accessories, or anything else, Helmets Life is the ultimate resource.