Defining Motorcycle Helmet Standards: DOT / Snell / ECE


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New to riding? Confused why there are three different motorcycle helmet standards? It seems weird to have more than one, but as you start to learn more, you will find out they each have different requirements. A DOT certified helmet could pass a Snell test but a Snell certified helmet might not pass a DOT test. There will always be a debate as to which is the best, but at the end of the day, its your head and completely up to you.

How do the tests work? Each test involves placing a head like object inside a helmet. The object is weighted and contains instruments to measure the liner velocity and g-forces. They slide the helmet down a rail at a high speed to strike an anvil which is shaped according to the specific test being applied. After impact, the g-force enforced on the head like object is measured and then the test is repeated on the impact point to make sure the helmet can protect from multiple impacts.

Helmet-protective-diagram

DOT

DOT stands for Department of Transportation. This is the US government approved standard and the most popular helmet type in the country. DOT helmets are more shock absorbent and designed at protecting your skull from 90% of impact types. The maximum g-force allowed by the DOT test is 250g’s, and an impact of 200-250g’s to your head would cause a survivable, yet harsh brain injury. DOT helmets favorite shock absorbancy due to recent studies claiming that absorbing the force of an impact if more important than resisting it.

KapscoMoto has a wide variety of DOT helmets available at great prices. You can browse their catalog here.

Snell

The Snell Memorial Foundation is an independent organization established in 1957, named after race car driver William “Pete” Snell who tragically died in 1956 when his helmet failed to protect his head during an accident. The Snell M2005 is the old standard favoring a more shock resistant helmet while the more recent M2010 standard favors shock absorbancy. Snell certified helmets are allowed for professional motorcycle racing, but the M2005 standard has no longer been permitted after 2011. The newly introduced M2015 standard is almost identical to M2010, but there is an important difference regarding enforcement testing. When samples of previously certified helmets are tested for compliance, the impact testing will be at the same impact velocities and to the same criteria prescribed for initial certification testing. If a failure is observed, three more samples will be tested at slightly lower velocities, but the test criteria will be the same as those set for certification testing.

M2015 certification labels are now available for sale as of October 1st, 2014. The helmet models certified to M2015 are held to meet the requirements of M2010 and will be included in the M2010 program upon request. As long as no claims of M2015 qualification are made, such units may be marketed with M2010 certification labels, M2010.

ECE

The ECE 22.05 helmet was made by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, and is the most common helmet standard used internationally used by over 50 countries worldwide. Helmets certified to ECE 22.05 are approved for all competition events by AMA, WERA, FIM, CCS, Formula USA and MotoGP and are used by almost every professional motorcycle racer competing in world championship road racing, motocross and off-road events. It is very similar to the DOT standard as it favours a more impact-absorbent helmet allowing a maximum g-force of 275. The ECE has more in common with DOT than Snell, and is likely to pass the DOT test and vice-versa.

Remember, its your head you want to protect. So do your research and make your own decision on what type of helmet to wear. Let us know what you use in the comments below.

  • bobD

    i ride with a Scorpion EXO-400 helmet that’s both DOT and SNELL certified. in fact, i chose it specifically because it met both standards; thus i didnt have to figure out which standard was “better”.

  • Bill

    I think you have it backwards about DOT and Snell. A Snell helmet will pass DOT standards while a DOT helmet might not pass Snell standards.
    DOT is required no matter what, while Snell is voluntary. I only buy helmets that have the Snell certification.

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