Understand Motorcycle Helmet Certifications

| Motorcycle Insurance.

understand motorcycle helmet certifications

Like it or not, Nevada law requires motorcyclists to wear a safety helmet. When shopping for a motorcycle helmet you may notice there are 3 common safety standards used by various manufacturers: DOT, ECE, and Snell. To help you understand motorcycle helmet certifications, let’s examine the methodology used by each safety standard.

DOT Helmet Standard

DOT stands for “Department of Transportation”, and refers to the FMVSS218 standard created by the federal agency. Enforcement of this standard is handled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).  The DOT standard is the most commonly seen on helmets sold in the US.  FMVSS218 sets specific standards that each helmet manufacturer must meet, including impact absorption, penetration resistance, and retention system effectiveness. A DOT sticker on the back of the helmet indicates that the maker has self-certified the product to meet FMVSS218.  The NHTSA does not require pre-testing of helmets, although they do acquire random samples for post-production testing.

ECE Helmet Standard

ECE stands for “Economic Commission for Europe and is, similar to DOT, a government-mandated standard for helmets that carry the ECE certification.  Unlike DOT, helmets with ECE certification are batch tested prior to sale to verify compliance with the standards.

The ECE includes standards that DOT does not, including slippage of the chin strap, specifications for protrusions from the helmet surface (such as rivets or snaps), and helmet surface abrasion.

Snell Foundation

The standards set by Snell are purely voluntary but go far beyond the requirements of ECE and DOT. Helmet makers must submit samples to Snell for a set of rigorous testing before a certification is given. Snell, for example, has a more detailed absorption test, a chin-bar strength test, stability test, and retention test. The face shield must also be able to absorb a hit from a lead pellet traveling at approximately 300 mph.

Finding a Quality Helmet

The perfect helmet would be comfortable, have great ventilation, and carry a certification from DOT, ECE, and Snell. There are helmets that meet all 3 standards, but they are generally limited to “full-face” models with a fixed chin bar. There are only a handful of “modular” helmets that meet Snell standards. There are no open face helmets that meet Snell standards.

Our advice is to visit your local motorcycle retailer and try on various helmets for fit and comfort.  Pay attention to the certifications listed on the helmet. Generally, the more expensive the helmet, the better the quality, comfort, and durability.  However, there are many affordable helmets that offer very good quality for a reasonable price.

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