A Simple Guide to Helmet Certifications

Feb 14, 2014 View Comments by

A Simple Guide to Helmet CertificationsYou’ve seen the letters gracing the backs of numerous motorcycle helmets—DOT, ECE, Snell—but what do they mean? Here, in the simplest way possible, we break it down.

DOT (Department of Transportation)

This is the standard set forth by the DOT and NHTSA that all on-road helmets sold in the U.S. must adhere to. Without going into long and exhaustive detail, a DOT approval primarily means the helmet can do three distinct things.

  1. Absorb a certain amount of crash energy.
  2. Prevent penetration.
  3. Stay on the rider’s head.

Manufacturers do not have to wait until their helmets can be tested before putting them on the market with the DOT label. However, they risk a steep fine if the product doesn’t live up to the requirements when/if random samples are selected for testing.

ECE R22.05 (Economic Commission of Europe Regulation 22.05)

The most widely used helmet certification in the world, ECE R22.05 is used in at least 47 countries as well as many race-sanctioning bodies like Moto GP. Unlike the DOT certification, ECE rated helmets must undergo testing before hitting the market. Otherwise, the two standards are remarkably close. ECE testing also focuses on impact absorption and helmet retention. One major difference is that ECE evaluation does not incorporate a penetration test, though it does include shell rigidity standards not found in DOT requirements.

Snell M2010 (Snell Memorial Foundation)

Unlike DOT and ECE standards, Snell certification has no ties to any governing body and compliance by manufacturers is strictly voluntary. The Snell Foundation is a third party non-profit dedicated to independent helmet testing. The current M2010 Snell standard has impact absorption testing similar to those of DOT and ECE certification, but with an arguably more thorough process. Like DOT, Snell also tests penetration. Unique to Snell, however, are the chin bar strength analysis, done on full-face helmets, and the visor penetration test. For certain race applications, Snell also tests for flame resistance.

In a nutshell, these are the three main helmet certifications you’re likely to encounter. Though they have plenty of subtle variations, the three certifications are actually more alike than many people realize. Several requirements, like a minimum viewing angle of 105-degrees, are identical across the board.

If you want to dig deeper check out the following websites:





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