Understanding types of motorcycle helmet certifications

motorcycle helmet

How can you be sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck when it comes to motorcycle helmet safety?

Across the motorcycle industry, there are certain standards and certifications riders should keep an eye out for when they’re in the market for a new helmet. Read on to learn about the differences between DOT and Snell certification.

Motorcycle Helmet Certifications: DOT vs. Snell

  • Department of Transportation (DOT)

A Department of Transportation (DOT) certification is the only one your helmet technically needs to be road-ready in the U.S.

DOT is a government regulatory agency, not a testing facility, and manufacturers are responsible for testing and self-certifying that helmet models they plan to sell for road use meet the standards. DOT-approved helmets are tested against Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard #218 (FMVSS 218).

Once helmets hit the market, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) randomly tests batches of helmets and hits manufacturers with steep fines – up to $5,000 per helmet – if it turns out their products don’t check all of the boxes.

  • Snell Memorial Foundation

Snell Memorial Foundation, on the other hand, is a private, not-for-profit organization. Snell prides itself on setting “the world’s toughest” voluntary safety standards for motorcycle, bicycle, and auto racing helmets. Manufacturers apply to have their helmets approved, and Snell handles the testing and certifying in-house.

To earn Snell certification, a helmet needs to pass intense testing on factors like impact absorption, whether the helmet stays in place in a crash, and how it performs in “stress testing” under a variety of weather conditions riders could find themselves in on the road.

If you’re looking for above-average protection, a Snell-approved helmet is probably the way to go.

Which certification do you look for when you’re shopping for a new motorcycle helmet? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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