All about Helmet Safety Ratings and Certification
Whether you ride on-road or off-road, a helmet acts as a barrier between you and any physical harm to your head. While purchasing helmets, you must have heard about DOT certification or ECE, SHARP, or SNELL-approved headgear. But, do you know what these mean or what role they play?
If not, let us guide you about the basics of motorbike helmet safety ratings.
Importance of motorcycle safety ratings
The purpose of rating any product is to ensure it meets the basic standards specified during the manufacturing process. In addition, as protective gear, helmets must achieve the highest level of safety standards.
Every headgear has a different build and different designs, which depends on the specifications. Moreover, not all helmets serve the same purpose – a helmet for daily usage cannot be worn on a race track. To ensure each helmet sold in the market is roadworthy and can provide optimal protection, helmets come with safety rating stickers.
The safety ratings differ country-wise, and in most cases, each helmet has to pass at least one certification. These helmets go through various checks and different levels of impact testing before finally achieving a safety rating.
Read on to know what these certifications involve, which companies issue them, and how they can benefit riders.
Various motorcycle helmet safety ratings
As discussed earlier, there are various helmet safety rating standards. Based on which region they come from, different certifying bodies give their verdict regarding helmet safety and roadworthiness.
Let’s delve into the best motorcycle helmet safety rating and their certification process.
DOT – Department of Transportation
Are you wondering what DOT-certified helmets are?
DOT is a standard of the US Department of Transport. DOT is a government body that is not directly involved in the testing procedure. Rather, helmet manufacturers have to produce products compliant with the DOT guidelines.
DOT has mandates regarding penetration resistance, impact negation, the field of vision, and many more. To be considered DOT-certified helmets, headgears in the US must pass these strict criterias:
- Crash test – DOT-certified motorcycle helmets are run through crash tests twice to assess the intensity of impact during such an event.
- Penetration test – To check the robustness of the helmet’s shell, a penetration test with sharp objects is conducted.
- Height test – Manufacturers carry out a height test to measure the impact on a helmet when dropped from a certain elevation and surface. Here, a helmet is dropped on two different surfaces from a height of 1.83 meters to generate a G-force of 400G on its crash. The impact created from such a fall is then measured with scientific tools.
- Retention system test – The helmet strap is checked to measure how it can perform under stress. The test starts with a loading weight of 22.7 kg, applied for 30 secs. Then the weight is increased to 136 kg and applied for 120 seconds.
DOT safety standards are known as Federal Standard FMVSS 218 and can be easily seen on the helmet. However, these standards are often criticised since it follows an honour system where manufacturers certify helmets in their labs.
However, manufacturers who avoid penalties for manufacturing and selling helmets that are non-compliant with the guidelines can end up in a hefty fine.
SNELL – Snell Memorial Foundation
Founded in 1957, Snell Memorial Foundation is a private, non-profit organisation working to improve helmet safety.
It also devises safety standards for karting, harness racing, equestrian, automobile racing, and other sports involving helmets. Snell-approved motorcycle helmets are extremely popular today.
Snell works beyond government-set standards, and manufacturers can assess it for prototype testing.
Manufacturers willing to get the label of Snell-certified helmets must submit their sample helmets that will be tested per the foundation’s standardised rules.
If the sample helmet passes the test, Snell will label it accordingly. For decades, it has been regarded as the gold standard of helmet safety.
There are various safety standard rules under Snell that the organisation keeps updating and issues certificates every 5 years.
M2020 is the current safety standard for a Snell-certified motorcycle helmet. It involves two impact test options, M2020D and M2020R.
- D in the M2020D stands for DOT.
- R in the M2020R is short for Regulation 22.
By incorporating these two standards, Snell is developing yardsticks for countries across the globe.
- M2020D: M2020D is a continuation of the Snell safety standards of M2015. In addition, it involves the following safety tests:
- Flat anvil – The first impact is tested at 7.75 meters per second, and other effects and heights are determined as per the head form after that.
- Edge anvil – It involves a single impact at 7.75 m/sec.
- Hemispherical anvil – This test is similar to that of the Flat anvil.
However, in each of these cases, the recorded shock must not cross the threshold of G level.
- M2020R: M2020R includes the safety checks mentioned below –
- Flat anvil – Single impact at 8.2 meters per second.
- Hemispherical anvil – First impact at 7.70 meters per second and others mentioned in the test head form.
- Edge anvil – Single impact at 7.75 meters per second.
In all these tests, the recorded shock must not be more than the G level, and HIC should be less than 2880.
Snell-approved motorcycle helmets follow safety standards inspired by racetracks, and various checks involved ensure stability and ease of removal in case of an emergency.
For example, experts at Snell check the weakest points in a helmet like a visor snap, mechanical hinge and do not approve it until they assure its energy management efficiency.
SHARP – Safety Helmet Assessment and Rating Program
A new face in the safety game, Safety Helmet Assessment and Rating Program is the only organisation that works beyond the pass and fail. It provides helmets with a star rating based on impact point and energy level checks.
Each rating refers to the impact levels and energy management efficiency. Instead, it acts as an impact rating enhancement of ECE 22.05 (European standards for safety and applicable in more than 50 countries in Europe). Therefore, if you come across a SHARP helmet, it means it has already passed the ECE standards.
The methods used by SHARP to test helmets are similar to that of the ECE 22.05 method by further adding a higher and lower velocity of a strike to the mix. In addition, by using the European Crash data, SHARP calculates a colour-coding safety rating for different helmet areas.
SHARP helmets come with a rating from one to five. Here, a 5-star SHARP helmet points to the highest safety and offers superior levels of protection. In addition, SHARP conducts a thorough impact test and post-impact test to locate the weak points.
ECE – Economic Commission of Europe
ECE-approved helmets go through comprehensive testing and are considered compliant with the most updated and advanced standards.
ECE follows a rigorous process wherein it utilises safety-related methods of both DOT and Snell along with a few other testing processes. For example, experts check the quality of a face shield, shell rigidity, etc.
In addition, these ECE-rated helmets are tested in independent labs before being released in the market.
ECE-certified helmets pass the following checks –
- Impact test – It is done using a smooth anvil (known as curbstone) and through a single stroke at a certain portion of the helmet.
- Abrasion resistance – Abrasion resistance is checked.
- Chinstrap test – The chinstrap is checked for slippage. Also, the material is tested for tension failure at over approximately 304kg of force.
- Deformation test – To check the force/energy a helmet can withstand without getting deformed, a deformation test is conducted under a weight of nearly 68kg.
To get an ECE helmet certification, headgear producers have to deliver 50 factory versions of helmets for independent testing.
This testing is conducted in third-party labs in front of both helmet manufacturers and ECE experts to maintain authenticity.
ISI – Indian Standards Institute
In India, ISI certified helmets (IS: 4151) were first released and enforced in 1993. The methods for safety testing under ISI are set to align with ECE standards.
Although the measures followed by ISI are similar to that of ECE-certified helmets, it does not involve testing helmets (by BIS) as is the case with the latter.
ISI testing includes spot checks to ensure the helmet manufacturers abide by the standards and are eligible for the renewable ISI mark license.
Choosing the right headgear involves a lot of consideration, and considering the motorbike safety ratings is surely one of them. Safety features and the fit, finish, design, ease of use, weight, visibility are all factors.
Since the helmet certification and ratings we discussed are devised in different countries following varying government guidelines, all of them have advantages as well as drawbacks.
However, making an informed decision while buying your next headgear will not be an issue anymore with this comprehensive guide.
Consider the best motorcycle helmet safety rating when buying your next headgear and ride safely!