Motorcycle Helmets Designs Continued- Defining Motorcycle Helmet Standards, DOT & SNELL

AMERiders brings you the Continuation of Motorcycle Helmets Designs and the Super-Specialized Reasoning Behind Them, with Defining Motorcycle Helmet Standards and an explanation of DOT & SNELL certifications. Let’s go back over a bit of what we said in our last post and then continue on.

The Difference between the two helmets

Between the two helmets, besides the cool Motorcycle helmet designs and sweet race car helmet designs are other things as well. It’s more than just what happens when you bonk your head, it’s also about fire protection. Racing helmets have fire protection, not all full-face helmets that you see are racing helmets. Ameriders has both Racing and full-faced helmets in stock. The Auto helmets’ fire-resistant Nomex liner is not existent in motorcycle helmets because a rider leaves the bike conscious or not.

However, getting out of a racecar is totally different in a crash. The safety system is designed to protect the driver from harm. A caged race car driver takes an extra 15 seconds longer to get out of the car than it does to fly off of a motorcycle. That is 15 seconds of fire protection that could save the drivers life that a motorcycle driver doesn’t have I call that a win.

DOT approved Sticker

Department of Transportation or DOT Is a US government approved standard which is the most popular helmet type in the country for most everyone except for race car drivers. DOT helmets differ from Snell as they 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. These helmets also are favorite shock absorbency because of recent studies claiming that absorbing the force of an impact could be more important than resisting it.

Defining Motorcycle Helmet Standards
SNELL approved Sticker

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. Ed Becker is Snell’s executive director has stated, “There are many more motorcyclists than racing drivers, so manufacturers can justify the expensive tooling to produce cheaper polycarbonate shell motorcycle helmets. Race Car helmets are Kevlar or fiberglass because although they’re more labor-intensive to make, the tooling is cheaper. Carbon fiber is top-of-the-line for both Race Car and motorcycle helmets, but it’s years away from trickling down the price range.”

Let’s Continue

Defining Motorcycle Helmet Standards is difficult so DOT and SNELL have different ways of doing things, and as we said in our last post Motorcycle Helmets do trump Race Car Helmets in visibility as they have at least a 210-degree lateral vision to a race car helmet 180 degrees. As Motorcycle riders crouch, sit upright, look both ways and look back, so needing a bigger visor is important so they can see in all positions. When strapped into a Race car’s racing seat and its harness, you’ll be thrilled to have side view mirrors as you can hardly move your head. You can only turn it a few degrees in any direction, so the extra visor space would be a real waste.

“The ‘low-velocity’ tests came about because of concern at FIA and elsewhere that helmets built to withstand very severe impacts might also transmit high levels of shock in less serious impacts,” says Becker. “So we were urged to include some low-velocity impact tests.” (The FIA is an International Motorsports Governing Body).

New Testing

Snell updates its rules regularly and they are due some new ones so there is some new testing to go along with this as well. Testing diversified as we said to go along with this. They added new tests to go along with their current ones such as the “Low Velocity” impact testing, and “Low Lateral” impacts at the intersection of the head forms reference and the transverse planes.

These tests will help as head injuries can also happen at lower speeds. The new test puts helmets through multiple impacts at a lower rate of speed. Also, There was (also) concern that head strikes against lateral edges might fall below the protective zones of the helmets (ear zone). In fact, though, results to date indicate that this is not a real issue either, this is one way they help with Defining Motorcycle Helmet Standards

What are the tests?

You might wonder exactly what tests Both DOT and SNELL do well we did a bit of digging and found out for you.

DOT Helmet Certification
Defining Motorcycle Helmet Standards
DOT helmet certification

In order for a motorcycle helmet to be DOT certified, it must conform to a few minimum requirements, and be able to pass a series of impact tests.

The impact tests are administered by placing a head form (basically a dummy head equipped with measuring instruments) inside it to measure speed and g-forces as the helmet is dropped onto different surfaces from a pre-determined height. Based on the energy that gets transmitted to the head, the helmet is given a grade of pass or fail. Tests are done twice, to make sure the helmet can withstand multiple impacts in one crash.

Other tests are also done, such as a penetration test to make sure the head isn’t impacted, and the retention system is also tested to make sure the helmet doesn’t slide off in an accident.

DOT Helmet Tests

  • Helmet is dropped onto a spherical anvil from a height of 1.83m
  • Helmet is dropped onto a flat anvil from a height of 1.83m
  • Pointed striker is dropped onto helmet
  • Weight is applied to retention system (up to 300 pounds of force for 120 seconds)

The DOT standard is sometimes criticized because it works on the honor system; manufacturers declare a helmet to conform to DOT standards themselves and label it accordingly. Only when the helmet is tested might it lose its certification, and it might already be on the market when it does. However, the penalties for building a failing helmet are very high – up to $5000 per helmet – so there is a strong incentive for manufacturers to do their own testing before helmets are released, which they typically do.

SNELL Helmet Tests

Defining Motorcycle Helmet Standards
SNELL helmet certification


Snell issues a new certification standard every 5 years. Snell’s helmet testing is similar to DOT testing, but with additional requirements. They are (including what we have stated above):

  • Snell uses 5 different shaped anvils instead of two
  • Helmets are dropped from multiple heights (all of which are higher than DOTs)
  • Snell tests the chin bar along with the dome of the helmet
  • The visor is also tested, by shooting it with three lead pellets from an air rifle.
How Much Does Certification Matter In The Real World?

Testing in Defining Motorcycle Helmet Standards is valuable, no doubt. However, for the sake of fairness, lab tests take place in a controlled environment and are very consistent and precise as accidents in the real world are chaotic and unpredictable.

So a given helmet could perform exceptionally well in lab tests, however, but fall behind others in a real world, post-crash damage assessment. The reverse could also be true; helmets with a great reputation among riders could be outperformed by others in the testing environment, especially if helmet manufacturers make a point of building to the standard.

In Closing- Which standard should I choose.

This is actually a much debated and even a hotly debated question.

In the U.S., you should go with a helmet that is, at a minimum, DOT approved which ensures your helmet is street legal. You’ll not only have a significant level of protection, but your helmet won’t attract any unwanted attention from the law (which you probably get enough of already!)

While we at AMERiders can’t tell you definitively which one you should go with, we can tell you about what goes into each and to discuss the pros and cons of all of them, so you can make your own decision about which one is best for you.

Remember, no matter what kind of helmet you buy, wearing one is infinitely better than not, if a fall happens on a ride. We urge you to always wear a helmet every time you throw a leg over a bike!

~And as always….

~Live Free Ride Hard~

Defining Motorcycle Helmet Standards







Let AMERiders help you find a DOT or SNELL helmet as we know that Defining Motorcycle Helmet Standards is important.

And as always don’t forget to send us your stories, pictures and events for posting to GALLERY.AMERIDERS @ GMAIL.COM  and we will post them for you. The more people that know about your event the better and we are offering free advertising. We would also love to hear about your rides and love to see those bikes so send those stories and pictures.

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