Can Motorcycle Helmet Safety Ratings Save Life?

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How Motorcycle Helmet Safety Ratings Ensures a Safe and Smooth Ride On Your Favorite Bike?

In 2017, motorcycle helmets saved 1872 lives. 749 more lives could have been saved if all the riders and passengers wore helmets. A headgear with motorcycle helmet safety ratings is 37% more effective in preventing any fatal injuries. Thus, it is essential to have a certified helmet as a rider each time you kick the strat.

Yes, certification or helmet ratings are those stickers on the back of your helmet. But what’s with all the stickers? If you have the same queries, you will get all the answers and some proven tips to pick the best helmet with certified safety features.

What is Motorcycle Helmet Safety Ratings?

A Brief History of Helmet Safety

While buying a helmet, all you seek is better protection. But it was not the case until 1935. A neurosurgeon Hugh Cairns pioneered the concept of crash helmets while studying head trauma’s effect during the motorcycle accident.

The patient he was studying was T E Lawrence, famously known as “Lawrence of Arabia.”

In 1950, Herman Roth patented a protective helmet with an inner liner made with non-resilient material, durable outer shell, and floating suspension. This was the first helmet with a chin strap and visor. It was standard for bikers until 1956 followed by Cairns standard.

Famous racer Pete Snell died in 1956 while wearing Roth design helmet. Pete’s friends decided to cherish his memory by forming the Snell Memorial Foundation. The Snell foundation formed the base of extensive research and development on helmet ratings for safety.

If you found a SNELL safety sticker behind your helmet’s back, it is from them.

Safety Ratings of Motorcycle Helmets

Safety Standard or Ratings make sure the helmet manufacturers maintain all the requirements to make the helmet adequate to provide optimum safety during an impact. When we are talking about an impact, two things concern them most: energy and penetration.

Energy is the core of biking fun. The two-wheelers come with enormous power packed within a limited space. It offers both speed and maneuverability. However, the same speed will cause fatal head injury when your head on something with such speed.

Penetration involves the insertion of objects during a collision. It is a common scenario in any motorcycle accident that foreign objects from the colliding contact surfaces or roads insert into the helmet and cause severe injuries. 

Therefore the first thing about helmet safety is the impact protection that can prevent or minimize both the impact of energy and penetration. Additionally, chin strap retention, chin bar test, visibility through the visor, and even the easiness of helmet removal counted as a part of motorcycle helmet safety ratings.

While going over helmet safety details, you may bounce on the “edge” or “hemi” anvil shapes. The hem or the edge is the sharp surface. Upon impact, the edge anvil will cause more and severe damage than the flat one.

Motorcycle Helmet Safety Standards

No matter where you ride the bike, almost every region has its own helmet safety criteria. If not, then they follow one of the leading safety certification processes. If the words DOT, ECE, or SNELL on the back of your helmet create any question in your mind, it’s time to resolve them.

DOT Certification / DOT Rating

The Department of Transportation or DOT is the certification body for motor vehicles and accessories in the United States. Although DOT tests the helmet randomly and does not do it for every helmet, the testing process is rigid and rigorous.

You will find the certification as DOT FMVSS 218 on every DOT standard helmet. The certification process includes multiple drops and impact testing, penetration resistance, retention system test, and field of vision qualification.

Not every helmet in the US has the DOT standard sticker. The rigid helmet standards and rigorous testing process are too much for some of the apparently durable helmets. Therefore, if you are given a choice between a DOT and non DOT certified helmet, go for the former one for the best safety.

One of the major downfalls of the DOT testing scheme is third parties independent labs can do it. If you are a helmet manufacturer, you can hire a third-party testing company to check whether it meets all the DOT standard criteria. No wonder to pass your helmet, the company will crunch numbers that go in your favor.

ECE Certification / ECE Safety Rating

ECE testing is a European certification process. Thus, if you are in the US, there is a good chance your helmet will never have an ECE sticker on the back. All the helmets sold in Europe must have ECE certification to guarantee better safety.

ECE 22 05 is the certification process that ensures helmet safety. The whole process may be younger than the DOT; however, it is more rigorous and diversified.

One of the best things about the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) testing is its extensiveness. It includes the overall quality of the helmet’s safety features. Whether the combination of particular components can enhance the survival in any road accident is one of the testing process’s major focuses.

ECE tests include the certification of non-impact components like face shield and shell materials.

One of the strengths of ECE testing is the cross-testing method. Each helmet needs to go through checking by multiple accredited agencies. It means better testing and enhanced safety.

However, the major flaw in the ECE certification is its low impact energy grade testing scheme. Unlike DOT, the ECE scheme uses a flat anvil. Additionally, the European testing process involves only one impact that may not replicate the actual crash situation.

Lastly, the average crash speed and peak acceleration are much lower in Europe than in the US. Therefore, it cannot be guaranteed that an ECE certified helmet will be equally effective in a high-speed crash like a DOT or SNELL certified headgear. This difference can be crucial in a high impact accident.

SNELL Certification / SNELL Safety Rating

SNELL foundation safety ratings are considered as the Gold helmet standard in the helmet safety ratings. It is both famous and respected among the bikers, engineers, and technicians for the highest standard and rigorous testing process.

The SNELL M2015 and SNELL M2020 use an edge anvil to test the helmet’s durability during the most vicious impact. Moreover, the 275-gram energy transfer between two blows methods also measures how well the helmet can handle the stress during high impact absorption.

One of the best things about SNELL M2020 or M2015 testing is the full autopsy of the helmet. Technicians and engineers can test any impact and non-impact components of the helmet to check their standard and compatibility. No matter if it is the EPS liner or Bluetooth Comm, they will check almost anything.

SNELL testing involves multiple impacts on the helmet in different places until the technicians are sure about that section’s impact energy management feature.

You can be sure about the SNELL M2015 ratings ensuring maximum safety. However, the only shortcoming of the entire testing process is the process is designed for racing helmets with peak acceleration. This difference in approach makes the scheme unique of its kind.

When is the Best Time to Replace Your Motorcycle Helmet? 

The general rule is you should replace the helmet every 3-years if it is used frequently. Otherwise, you can wait up to 5-years to replace a helmet.

But if the helmet is involved in an accident or crash, do not wait. Immediately change the helmet for better protection. Depending on your location, it is better to get a certified helmet either by ECE, DOT, SNELL.

If you are unsure when to change your motorcycle headgear, the following factors will help you decide.

Age

Any helmet more than 5-years age is a potential risk. So replace it immediately and get a certified helmet for the next joy ride.

Fitting

A loosely fit helmet means the interior, liner, and pads are not in shape. And like old helmets, they are also potential signs of possible fatality. Replace immediately if the helmet fits loose and you are not feeling the same comfort.

Get a helmet that has a proper fit with your head.

Wearing Outer shell

If you find any cracks on the outer shell or break apart, forget about the helmet and replace it with a new one. The outer shell is the first line of defense against any accident, so it needs to be intact for better safety.

Interior getting Bad

Do the padding and liner smell bad even after a few washes? Are you finding residue of the foams on your shoulder and neck? If any of the answers are yes, you need to change the helmet.

Interior paddings and liners are crucial to comfort and impact absorption. If they start to break off, it means the integrity of the overall helmet is compromised. Get it changed immediately.

Broken Lock or Strap

Chin straps keep the helmet in place with the help of a lock. If any of those are broken or not working properly, do not try to fix them yourself. Just get a new helmet that has a DOT, ECE, or SNELL certification.

How to Choose the Right One With Motorcycle Helmet Safety Ratings?

It is a daunting task to find the right helmet to minimize the impact of an accident. However, we have rounded up a few tips to help you choose the right helmet for a safe and smooth ride.

  • Measure your head size and shape first. It won’t make any sense if you wear the best helmet model with the wrong size. Safety and comfort both will be compromised.
  • Pick the shell material according to your need and budget. Carbon fiber is the most flexible yet expensive. If you need the safest option, go for it. Otherwise, the fiberglass or polycarbonate choices are ok for adequate protection.
  • Try the modular, off-road, dual sports, or full-face helmet if you are on high-speed racing or off-road adventures. Open face or half face is ok for regular rides.
  • Select helmets with EPS inner padding for both comfort and safety.
  • Lastly, it is always better to get a certified helmet even if it costs more.

Conclusion

Riding a motorcycle is fun when you are secured with all the safety features. You may not be aware of all, but if the headgear comes with motorcycle helmet safety ratings, it means you are covered.

Different ratings rely on different testing processes and helmet standards. But the ultimate objective is to ensure your safety and head protection on the road during any collision. So do not ignore any sign of wearing in your old helmet. Replace it with an appropriate headgear with relevant certification.

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