Motorcycle Helmet Certification: DOT, SNELL, ECE, ISI Compared

According to a report of  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC), helmets reduce the risk of death by 37% and the risk of head injury by 69%. 

Although people often neglect but helmets are considered an emergency and necessary tool for a regular motorcycle rider. Helmets might not guarantee a safe crash, but they may at least keep you alive. 

A motorbike rider’s major duty is to check whether the helmets are varied through various certified tests. Different certifications like DOT, ECE, SNELL and ISI  are there with their different methods  to test the safety level of a  helmet.

Basically,  DOT (Department of Transportation) is the helmet certification standard of the USA, ECE (Economic Commission of Europe) is the certificate standard of Europe, Snell is a non-profit helmet certificate standard organization and ISI (Indian Standard Institute) is India’s helmet certification organization. These standards perform different ways to certify helmets.  

How to Know If My Helmet is Certified or Not?

DOT, ECE, SNELL, or ISI are motorcycle helmet certification levels. There are several ways to identify them. Let’s see a few characteristics that identify certified helmets.

Helmet is Certified or Not

DOT Certified Helmet Identification:

  • a DOT certified helmet always carries a “DOT’ sticker or painted symbol on the rear of the helmet. 
  • Dot stickers for helmets are the easiest way to identify an original one. 
  • Along with this, a DOT certified helmet has at least one inch thick inner liner that is made from strong polystyrene foam.  
  • It should also be in a buyer’s mind that an original DOT certified helmet must weigh at least three pounds or more. 

ECE Certified Helmet Identification:

  • To identify an ECE certified helmet, it should always be checked whether there is the letter ‘E’ followed by a number on the chin strap of the helmet or not. 
  • The number actually shows in which European country the helmet has been certified. 

SNELL Certified Helmet Identification:

  • However, when you are looking for a SNELL certified helmet, be sure that there is a SNELL sticker with a specific barcode inside. The barcode can be scanned to see the authenticity of the helmet. 
  • It is also better to check the list of helmet manufacturers that got SNELL certification before purchasing a helmet. 

ISI Certified Helmet Identification:

  • On the other hand, a genuine ISI approved helmet has a particular IS code above the non- removable and laminated ISI mark of the helmet. 
  • Along with that, the manufacturer’s code is put below the ISI mark.
  • Sometimes, the helmets also have the manufacturer’s trademark, name, and size, year of production and weight of the helmets on it.

Helmet Certification Comparison Table : 

Different types of motorcycle helmet safety standards vary from each other in different aspects. The following table can show those in brief:

Helmet Certification
Tests Performed for Helmet CertificationDOTECESNELLISI
Impact TestYesYesYesUnknown
Positional Stability TestYesYesYesUnknown
Face Shield Penetration TestYesYesYesUnknown
Flame Resistance TestNoNoYesUnknown
Frontal Head Restraint TestYesYesYesUnknown
Sharp Object Penetration TestYesNoYesUnknown
Chin Strap Buckle TestingNoYesYesUnknown
Weight Range ProvidedYesYesYesYes

What is DOT Approved Helmets, (Department of Transportation):

Different country approves different Helmet certification standard. If a motorcycle helmet is DOT approved, that means the helmet justly fulfills the standards that have been set by the National Highways Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Those criteria are there to certify that the helmet can provide a certain level of safety to the person who will wear it.. For helmets, DOT certification is needed in the USA for on-road drives. DOT basically tests the helmet in several ways. Those are mainly how far the helmet can protect itself from being crashed, how the holding system is, and what its penetration level is. 

DOT Approved Helmets

How DOT tests the helmet? 

The tests are interesting. Because, to test the helmets, those are dropped from a certain height onto various surfaces.  After that, some data is collected from that test. Those data are mainly calculated to see how much of the force the helmet can take in without being broken or having any damage inside. 

To see the penetration level, a particular policy is being used. In that test, it is seen whether a test striker can pierce the EPS (Expanded Polystyrene) liner if it is dropped onto the helmet.  EPS is a layer of foam that is placed to protect the user’s head from any kind of harm. 

In the test, if the striker can pierce the EPS, it is assumed that the helmet has failed the test. If the striker can’t, the helmet is expected to be a good one.  

Criticism on DOT certification 

Though the process of DOT certification  has a lot of good sides, it has some shortcomings as well. The majority of the tests are done in the particular manufacturer’s laboratory. Predictably, they may label their helmets as DOT approved even without arranging the test. It will turn into a very difficult job to find out whether the helmets are really DOT certified or not, as there is no other organization to verify that.

DOT Approved Helmets

To prevent these kinds of affairs, NHTSA can enforce some essential steps. It should be mandatory for the manufacturers to take a test in front of NHTSA officials to prove the stability and safety of their helmets. Otherwise, they should be penalized with a large amount of money.

DOT standard certified Helmets: 

  1. GMAX Helmets
  2. Fly 2018 Kinetic Helmet – Rockstar
  3. Answer 2019 AR1 Helmet – Edg
  4. HJC CL-X7 Helmet
  5. Arai VX-Pro4 Helmet

SNELL Certification Standard:

Snell is one of the renowned helmet certification organizations in the world. From the very beginning of establishment by “Pete William Snell” in 1957 till today, they have maintained their reputation. Furthermore, in this organization Bike Helmets have to pass a number of tests to get the certification. For these reasons, this standard is considered among the toughest certification standards. 

SNELL Certification Standard

Tests

The following test cases are applied for Snell standard certification.

Impact tests

Impact test is done to check the impact resisting capability on every side of the helmet. They drop different weights to the helmet from different heights. At the same time they drop  the helmet to different anvils from different heights. They use sharp edges to test whether the helmet can be penetrated by sharp pointed objects or not. 

The experiments are done not only visually but also they calculate different parameters mathematically. For example heights, impact velocity, anvil structure, peak gravity and energy etc. for certification.

Personal stability test

Positional Stability test is done to check how stable the helmet is on the head. They take a dummy human head and place the helmet over it to test whether it remains fixed over the head after collision. To do this, they place the dummy head covered with the helmet upside down and hang a certain amount of weight. After hanging the weight if the helmet does not fall from the head then it passes the test. They also do a similar test to see whether the straps hold with the mouth or not. 

SNELL Certification Standard Helmet

Face Shield Penetration Test

In Face Shield Penetration Test  they take the helmet to a cabinet and shoot on the face shield. If the bullet penetrates the shield it fails the test.   

Other than these tests there are few more testing standards which are done for special bike helmets or racing car helmets. For example Flame Resistance Test, Frontal Head Restraint Test and Chin Bar Impact Test etc.

These are the basic testing procedures followed by world class Helmet certification organization Snell. Here, you can get a few more insights about the Snell certification standards.

Snell Standards Certified Helmets:

  1. Bell
  2. Shoei
  3. HJC
  4. ARAI
  5. Nolan      

ECE (Economic Commission of Europe) Certification Standard:

Where DOT is an American approval for the motorcycle helmets, ECE (Economic Commission of Europe) is a European approval for the safety requirements of a motorcycle helmet. Almost 50 countries around the world use this certification to approve their helmets’ durability, strength, and authenticity. 

ECE Certification Standard Helmet

Ways to identify an ECE-certified helmet

An ECE 22-05 permitted helmet can be identified by the label it has on the chin strap, where the letter ‘E’ is written followed by a particular number. The number indicates the country where the helmet has been certified. 

Differences between DOT and ECE certification tests

 DOT and ECE certification tests

The methodology that ECE follows to certify a helmet is almost similar to DOT’s certification approaches. Yet, there are some technical differences. For example, in DOT certification, the crash tests on helmets are done multiple times on the same point of a helmet. Whereas, in ECE certification, it is done only once. In addition to that, in ECE certification, a weight of 68 kg is applied on the helmet to check whether the helmet faces any deformity or not. 

Another visible difference between DOC and ECE certification is, ECE 22-05  uses several sizes of head forms to check their helmets. On the other hand, DOC uses a few numbers of head forms. However, in SNELL vs ECE situation, SNELL stays a bit advanced as it tests the helmet is so many ways, 

Criticism on ECE certification test:  

Though ECE certification is considered a strict one, it has received some criticisms too. One of these is, the ECE test doesn’t require any penetration test. A penetration test is a good way to see how the helmet shell can protect the head of the users if it is hit by any sharp objects. As the ECE test doesn’t include it, the helmet remains unchecked regarding this issue. 

ECE certification test

However, the FIM helmet standards is a new safety certification in Europe for motorcycle racing . It is considered  to be a harder one to pass than the ECE certification tests. It tests only the full face helmets.

ECE Standard Certified Helmets : 

  1. Vega VF1 Helmet
  2. Scorpion VX-R70 Motocross Helmets 
  3. 6D Helmets ATR-1 Helmet
  4. Arai Quantic
  5. HJC RPHA-1 

ISI (Indian Standard Institute) Certification Standard:

This is the standard certification of Helmets in India. The ministry of Road Transport and Highways (Morth) has declared that all the helmets in India must pass the (ISI) from June 1, 2021.They also said, the weight of the helmet cannot be more than 1.20 kg. 

ISI Certification Standard Helmet

Thus, ABS fiber, carbon fiber or any other high quality composites may also be used to make the helmets on ISI standards. can easily be used as it is lightweight. This ruling will ensure that helmets used are only meant for bikers.  This is a mixture of DOT and ECE standards for Helmet Certification. 

ISI Standard Certified Helmets:

  1. Habsolite HB-ESBG Ecco Star Open Face Helmet
  2. Studds Chrome Economy SUS_CEBFH_BLKL Full Face Helmet
  3. Dass Getz (ISI) Open Face Helmet
  4. Steelbird SB-50 Adonis Classic Black 
  5. Vega Crux Half Face Helmet

Is ECE 22.05 better than DOT and Snell?

On a larger scale comparison between ECE 22.05 vs Snell 2015 it is considered ECE 22.05 to be safer. In addition, ECE is also considered safer than DOT. Because of the intense testing strategies it follows. This standard takes different portions of the helmet and tests the capability of each section of the helmet. 

Is ECE 22.05 better than DOT and Snell

For example, the abrasion resistance of the helmet, the deformation level of shell, tension failure of strap etc.  However, in the DOT vs SNELL case, it can be said that they both test a helmet in almost similar ways. Hence, they may provide almost equal protection to the users.

Conclusion

Though ECE 22.05 is considered to be a better one, each of the three organizations test a helmet in different ways to certify. Thus one certification standard can not be compared to another. Moreover, in the market we often get uncertified helmets.

Therefore, if a helmet has any one the above three motorcycle helmet safety standards labels, then it can be considered as a good certified helmet.

1 thought on “Motorcycle Helmet Certification: DOT, SNELL, ECE, ISI Compared”

  1. Hi – one ‘selling point’ of SNELL was that they did random tests of helmets bought from dealers. This way they could tell if the manufacturing standard was being maintained. I don’t know if this is still true.
    Regards

    Reply

Leave a Comment