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Buying a helmet is not as easy as it may sound—there are so many choices, makes, models, prices and factors all part of the decision process whether you’re new or experienced. Clearly it’s not the colour or edgy design that’ll determine your choice—the number one goal to achieve in a helmet is safety.

According to one not too long ago survey (2003) done in America by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motorcycle riders faced a 32% greater likelihood of dying in a crash compared to those driving in a car. The simple practice of wearing a helmet dramatically reduced the number of road fatalities for cycle riders. The NHTSA estimates that between 1984 and 2004, nearly 11,000 motorcyclists would be alive today if they were wearing a helmet while riding.

How do you know if your helmet is safe? It receives a rating approval --Snell and DOT (Department of Transportation) are the rankings for North America, In Europe its  ECE 22-04 or ECE 22-05; Great Britain: BS-6658 Grade A; Japan: JIS-T-8133-2000 all of these designed to let you know the  safety "effectiveness" of a helmet.


The foundation is named after William “Pete” Snell, a popular amateur auto racer who perished from massive head injuries resulting from a sports car roll-over accident in 1956. His helmet failed to protect him.

As a memorial to Pete, a group of scientists, physicians, racing colleagues and friends teamed together in a dedicated effort to promote research, education, testing and development of standards geared to improve the effectiveness of automotive racing helmets.

The foundation was established in 1957 land the first standard was introduced in 1959 for crash helmets in general, with the first motorcycle specific standard being introduced in 1985. The Test facility is located  in Sacramento CA. have a look at the testing standards performed!


The DOT (Department of Transport) performs a straight forward impact test. Using a simulated head placed inside a helmet, testers drop the helmet from a height of ten feet. The head cannot receive more than 400 G-force units on impact. A G-force unit measures the force of gravity exerted against an object in motion.

Manufacturers don't need to test their helmets in order to claim a DOT rating! A helmet manufacturer simply needs to feel that a helmet meets the DOT specifications to brand it as "DOT rated." The DOT might occasionally pull helmets to perform testing--majority of helmets sold as DOT certified do not undergo any level of testing.


BSI British Standards is the UK's national standards organization that produces standards and information products that promote and share best practice.  It serves the interests of a wide range of industry sectors as well as governments, consumers, employees and society overall, to make sure that British, European and international standards are useful, relevant and authoritative.


  • All companies have their own test facilities, because Snell testing is expensive.
  • Snell only tests down to an area above the mid ear level.
  • Snell tests random helmets purchased in the market place.
  • Snell currently has 15 standards from bicycles, to skiing, horseback riding, scooters, etc. The important ones are M2005 – Motorcycle – current
    M2010 – Motorcycle (written but not in force yet); CMR/CMS 2007 – Children’s Motorsports; L-98 – Mopeds & low powered vehicles; SA/K - Auto & Kart
  • DOT standards are self-administered – virtually no testing is done by the US Department of Transport.
  • ECE 22.05 standard is tightly regulated & therefore reliable. It’s test criteria is quite a bit different than Snell or DOT, but the approved helmets test very close to what a DOT approved helmet would test at. As with DOT, it is a “lighter hit” standard than Snell.
  • BSI 6658 Type A from Great Britain & JIS from Japan are other standards too. BSI is similar to Snell in stiffness.
  • DOT standard does not test the chin bar of helmets with them while the Snell (and ECE) standards do.


  • The most common hit zone is the forehead area along with the chin bar.
  • The most common object to hit is flat pavement.
  • Just like poorly inflated tires, too lose a fit is very common and a “big problem”.
  • Full face offers the highest level of protection with open face being second.
  • Especially in Moto-X, a failed chin bar is a common helmet failure point, but this is misleading. If the chin bar doesn’t yield when needed, the impact can create a basal skull fracture. The trick is that a chin bar failure must be engineered to yield outwards away from the face are purposely made to yield before causing a basal skull fracture, & to yield outwards, but not all helmets are engineered so accurately (ARAI passes this test!)


  • Fit is very important. One size too big can reduce protection level by 30%.
  • Loose fit also increases noise level.
  • The street environment is far more dangerous than racing—get a good helmet!
  • How snug? Can you chew your gum? It should be very difficult!
  • Look for any tight spots that cause discomfort.
  • Fit your head, not your face.
  • A helmet's life is good for 3-5 years depending on usage.
  • Do not buy a helmet used/second hand as it will have already pre-shaped to the previous owners head--of no use to you in a mishap.

*source support from ARAI Helmets/FullBoreMarketing Canada

©copyright MOTORESS 2010 All rights reserved.



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