When you purchase your motorcycle, ATV or scooter at a dealership, the salesman may send you to the parts department to check out helmets. At first glance, you’ll notice a lot of different styles; half-helmets, full-face helmets and modular helmets, to name a few. And in case you didn’t know, a modular helmet is a helmet that allows you to lift up the chin part of the helmet without removing the entire helmet from your head. As you are looking at all these helmets and talking to the salesperson about the helmets, you may hear the words, “DOT approved” or “SNELL certified”, these terms indicate the testing and safety ratings of these helmets based on government standards. There are actually three different ratings of helmets that you should be aware of when you determine which level of protection is right for you.
Helmet Protecion – Level One
The first level of protection is none. Yes, I said none. These would be the novelty helmets you see at a dealership that may look really cool, but offer no protection at all in the event of an accident. I’ve seen these helmets, they are usually inexpensive and don’t come with much padding or protection, you can almost tell they would offer no protection when you look at them. These helmets are often purchased by riders who live in a state without a helmet law and will be traveling through a state with a helmet law, keeping them legal without a big expense.
Helmet Protection – Level 2
The second level of protection is a DOT helmet. You will see the DOT designation on the back of the helmet in the form of a sticker. A DOT approved helmet indicates that the helmet has met or exceeded the government standards for impact absorption, penetration resistance and the ability to stay fastened during a crash. AFX, AGV, Arai, AXO, HJC, Icon, Scorpion, and Shoei are some of the brands that show the ratings of their helmets on their websites.
Helmet Protetion – The Best
The final and greatest level of protection can be found on a helmet that is SNELL certified. SNELL certification is voluntary, therefore, they offer the best amount of protection and are doing so by choice, not by government standards. A SNELL certified helmet will offer the rider the most protection against penetration for both the helmet, the shield and any other components attached to the helmet, the chin strap will offer the highest level of retention and the helmet will provide exceptional peripheral vision.
Most dealerships will carry DOT and SNELL approved helmets, for the safety and protection of their customers. If you are unsure of a helmets’ rating, the parts staff at the dealership should be able to help you, if you aren’t sure, then move on to a different helmet.
On a final note, you can find inexpensive SNELL certified helmets, they just won’t have all the bells and whistles you would find on an expensive helmet, so don’t let price deter you if you want that SNELL certification. The pricing of helmets by manufacturers is based on comfort and design, not safety designations, so if it is a SNELL certfication you are looking for, don’t be deterred by price, a little research can help you find one in your