Motorcycle Helmet Safety Ratings: The Definitive Guide

An in-depth guide on motorcycle helmet safety ratings. Motorcycle Helmet Safety Ratings: The Definitive Guide

With the cost of gasoline continually changing, people are always in the market for a more affordable way of transportation and tips for better gas mileage.  Now while some of you will be against a motorcycle because of safety, a lot more people are going with this form of transportation because of the miles per gallon they can get versus a car for traveling back and forth to work.  Not everyone wants to ride on two wheels (big wheels at that) versus being on four when going on a road trip.

Motorcycles are becoming more and more the ideal way to save money and also in actuality, depending on your own opinion, can be safer than a car or truck.  This is because not only does your driver’s license contain more extensive knowledge for on the road driving, but because the safety standards in driving a motorcycle require you to be more attentive when driving. You cannot text while driving a motorcycle, so you need to know of all your surroundings at all times.

One of those safety concerns most have is around the helmet you wear, and if it will protect you from a head injury, should anything happen.  In this blog, we will discuss motorcycle helmet safety ratings and what they all mean to you as potential buyers.


Motorcycle Helmet Safety

Helmets are one of the most important things you can do for yourself if you are considering driving or even just riding on a motorcycle.  If you are considering buying a helmet, you will want to consider the safety ratings and potentially what they mean when you see the stamp on the back of the helmet or sewn into the lining.

Different standards of ratings mean they do various testing to the helmet based on what the manufacturer has complied with or pay for when designing and creating their helmet.

There are three standard ratings that have been historically known, while there is fourth that you may not know about.

DOT Helmets snell sticker

This one is easy to decipher; it is the Department of Transportation rating.

The DOT’s focus measures the performance based on impact to the helmet.  They will look at a few other things like retention, the field of vision, penetration resistance, and labeling, but the impact is the key.

During their testing for impact, they will strike the helmet anywhere in the area of coverage with an anvil.  They can do this a second time in the same spot to test for a secondary hit that can happen in an accident.  This is thought to check first for compromise of the helmet and second for penetration of the helmet.

If the helmet passes, it will get a stamp from DOT for approval.  This is considered one of the most basic ratings of them all, which allows for some concerns by people who purchase them.  This being said, it is because they will not test all helmets, but a controlled random sampling as this will let the manufacturer know if there are issues with a particular line they are creating.

The DOT helmet will be more likely to favor shock-absorbing helmets and can do a surprise inspection at any time in the process.  Most states will require DOT helmets, while some will not, so make sure to check your state for the requirements.  It is recommended that you wear a DOT helmet no matter what your state requires because they are one of the safest helmets out there.

SNELL Helmets

The Snell Memorial Foundation set up a standard that is voluntary for manufacturers to apply for and is also harder to achieve.  This is one of the toughest stickers to earn because of the testing that is done on the helmets.

Girl on Harley

As mentioned before, the DOT will have a specific area of coverage that they will test, while the SNELL rating allows the helmet to be checked anywhere.  Typically, the tester in the lab will strike what he believes to be the weakest spot on the helmet, nothing off limits, including how many strikes.  Since no part of the helmet should leave you vulnerable during an impact, they will have stricter requirements and more testing.

The other difference would be the number of helmets inspected.  The SNELL rating is done on every helmet before it can receive the rating, and because they meant it for racing helmets, it is harder to pass for street helmets.  A tinted visor is an automatic disqualification since it can impair the vision of the user.

The testing involved and the specific rating of a SNELL approved helmets come with a higher price tag attached to it.

ECE Rating

Economic Commission for Europe was created by the United Nations and is the safety standard for European countries.  In this process, over 50 countries have adopted this helmet safety protocol, which is geared toward energy-absorbing helmets.  So what is the difference between this and the DOT?

All the tests are the same, except for one slight difference in the amount of energy sourcing for impact testing.  ECE does not allow helmet extensions as much as the DOT does either.  The DOT and SNELL don’t evaluate the face shields, shell rigidity, and other safety features of the helmet, but ECE does.

As far as overall testing, we know the DOT does a controlled sampling, but ECE will test all new designs before it can be on the market.  Therefore, the helmets out there might not have been tested before being on the market and are still undergoing DOT testing.

The US (United States) does not recognize the ECE rating at this time; it will still need to have DOT approval before being worn in the states legally.

SHARP Rating

This is something that you will not be necessarily familiar with, and that is because it is just a star rating on the ECE tests already done.  So what this did was take the ECE tested helmets and rate them on a scale of ABC, from best to least as far as the tests that were performed.

So it is a grading card of the helmets on the market that have been ECE tested.  This was done because the British government decided that more information was needed when deciding on what helmet should be purchased by the buyer.

Helmet Fit

Motorcycle safety is something you should not take lightly.  Buying the right helmet for you takes time and some serious consideration.  Safe doesn’t mean cool looking, while cool looking doesn’t mean safe.  So with that said, you should look at the following things to determine if the helmet is safe for you.

Motorcycle driverChin Strap – Make sure that the chin strap is good and tight when pulling on the straps or applying pressure.  The last thing you want is the chin strap breaking while wearing it down the road.  Jump around with the helmet on and make sure it is excellent and sturdy.

Interior Lining – Your lining inside the helmet should be at least an inch thick, so it protects your head from the hard shell.

Weight – Don’t let your helmet be too heavy for you. Usually, people will buy one that is three pounds, but if you have a hard time holding your head up, it is too heavy, and the same goes for too light of a helmet.  You want it to be safe and comfortable.

Protruding – If your helmet has anything sticking out of it more than a certain amount, it could get snagged or caught on something in the fall if you have an accident.  Make sure that nothing will get caught on your way down if it happens.

Safety Stickers – To be on the safe side, check the helmet for the DOT, SNELL, or ECE sticker on it.  This will be the first thing you should look for since this means it means the standards of safety.

After you have checked all these things, make sure it fits you comfortably.  Nothing too tight or too loose.  The best way to gauge the best helmet fit for you is to wear it for at least five minutes in the store and see if it becomes too bulky or uncomfortable with you.  If it does, it probably is not the right helmet for you.  Ventilation is essential, and a line of sight when the shield is down.

Motorcycle helmet

Safety Should Always Come First

At the end of the day, when you go to purchase one of these helmets, make sure you have all the right info.  Do not buy a helmet for someone else as a gift unless they are there to try it on.  Fit is essential for safety to be there.  If you buy for someone else, they may need to take it back and get the proper fit for them.

Motorcycle helmet safety is one of the most important things you can have when on the road, and a helmet is just one piece of it.  Take the time you need to do it properly.