The Facts About Motorcycle Helmet Safety Certifications


Riding a motorcycle hasn’t always been as safe as it is now, originally no helmets were required at all, and the helmets available weren’t even close to being as well built. Back in 1957, a guy by the name of Peter Snell had a very serious accident while racing a car, he suffered serious head injuries and died. Afterward, a foundation in his name started by his colleagues and doctors vowed to create standards by which all helmets could be compared. In 1959, the first standards for automobile racer were published, then shortly after the standards were expanded to motorcycles, skiing, bicycles, skating, and horse riding helmets.

Snell Standards Are The Most Rigid

The standards developed by Snell for motorcycle helmets are rigorous and kept up to date consistently each year. If a motorcycle helmet has a Snell Certification rating that means that it has been thoroughly tested and passed a number of different qualifications.

The helmet has to have the ability to stay on the head in the event of an accident and protect the wearer in a variety of conditions including wet, hot, cold and icy weather. These ratings are completely separate from any government agencies, or helmet manufacturers, in order to keep outside influences to a minimum.

However, they are totally voluntary and the manufacturer of the helmet must submit it to be tested and pay a fee to the testing labs for the certification. After the helmet is certified,  only then can the company place a label on the inside showing that it has passed. A complete list of helmets that have passed is also maintained as well.

The Tests Performed Are Rigorous And Many

Helmets are tested to verify how many g-forces of impact they’ll withstand and still protect the wearer. This is done while making sure that the helmet won’t re-position or roll off the head during the impact which would render the helmet useless.

Chin straps are also tested to make sure they won’t stretch during an accident and allow the helmet to slip off the head. The chin bar itself is also rated on how far it will move on impact from side to side. Even the clear face shields are tested to see how high of velocity a pebble can be deflected without penetrating.

The entire helmet is also rated on how resistant the shell is to penetration by a pointed object when dropped from a certain height. All of these tests are designed to imitate real world possibilities that can happen to a motorcycle rider in an accident.

Random Continued Follow-up Testing Is Also Part Of The Deal

Even after a certification is earned, the Snell Foundation will continue to do follow-up tests by purchasing helmets at retailers and retesting to assure continued compliance with the standards. This is to protect the consumer from being misled by manufacturers that change their helmets after certification in order to save on the cost of materials.

Riding a motorcycle can be dangerous when an accident occurs because, unlike a car, the driver isn’t protected by a body of sheet metal. But by wearing a good helmet and driving cautiously many lives can be saved each year.