When looking for new motorcycle helmets to protect your head, and to ramp up the cool factor on your appearance, it’s important to know something about DOT standards for headgear. These standards are mandatory on all helmets sold in the U.S. The standards are enforced by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration—its long name lets you how important it is. Essentially the standards and regulations are in place to protect bike riders from serious injury.
The Basics of DOT Helmet Certification
When buying motorcycle gear to safeguard your brain, you should know that the DOT certification is basically voluntary. That is, the helmet manufacturer is the one who declares if the helmet meets the necessary standards. However, if the helmet, through random testing, is found to be deficient, the company could receive a large fine. This should be a big incentive for manufacturers to engineer high-quality headgear.
To meet DOT standards a helmet must pass a few requirements and withstand several specific impact tests. The DOT standards are not the most rigorous out there, but more about that later. Here are some important things to know about the impact tests:
- The tests are performed on a dummy head with measuring instruments inside the helmet
- The helmet is dropped from different heights on different surfaces
- The drop tests are performed twice to make sure the helmet can hold up over multiple hits in one crash
- Speed and g-forces are measured
- A grade of pass or fail is given
If a helmet is involved in a crash, it should be discarded. Damage received by the helmet could make it less effective in a future crash. Also, for a helmet to be street legal in the U.S. it must have DOT certification.
The Fundamentals of Other Helmet Certifications
While the DOT standard is the only federally-mandated helmet program in the U.S, there are other certifications that a savvy helmet buyer may wish to know about. Perhaps the most important and best known of these is the Snell certification. This program deals largely with testing for racing helmets and is more rigorous than the DOT standards. Here are some important points about Snell certification:
- A new certification standard is issued every five years
- It involves testing of prototypes to help manufacturers develop better helmets
- The program is run by a private, non-profit organization
- It also tests the helmet visor by shooting lead pellets at it from an air rifle
- The impact tests are more demanding than the DOT impact tests
Another important certification to know about is the ECE standard motorcycle helmet certification. It is recognized by over 50 countries and by the majority of racing organizations in the world. Its importance in the U.S. is somewhat limited. The testing procedures for ECE are even more rigorous than those for Snell and testing is completed before the helmet can be sold. Fifty production versions of the helmet are tested before the certification is granted.
Proceed With Care Buying the perfect helmet for you is an important decision. Knowing a bit about helmet testing and certifications helps you make a better choice.