Safety Certifications Motorcycle Helmet: DOT, ECE22.06, SNELL, SHARP & FIM

I have been curious to understand the meaning of some certification standards I see marked on motorcycle helmets. As a motorcyclist, you too need to be versed with the helmet certification standards such as DOT, ECE 22.06, SNELL, FMVSS 218, FIM and SHARP.

Information about certification safety standards is good for motorcycle riders to make informed decisions when purchasing a helmet. As well as good for helmet manufacturers to improve the quality of their helmets to meet the competition in the field.

These safety certifications are done based on a lot of scientific research tests to determine the safety standard of motorcycle helmets. So what is the highest safety rating for motorcycle helmets?

Buying a helmet may cause you to go through the various motorcycle helmet safety ratings or certifications and changes that will go into effect in 2023. There are over five helmet certification standards.

For instance, I have made a product roundup review on 10 Best ¾ Motorcycle Helmets you can check on Amazon. Some helmets have DOT, ECE or SNELL certifications.


These are the ones I will cover here for you: ECE22.05 and ECE22.06, DOT, SNELL, FIM and SHARP ratings. So going through this article, you will be able to say what is better ECE or DOT or SNELL or in other words, what certification is best for a helmet?

A Brief History of Motorcycle Helmet Safety Ratings

I think it is proper that we have some little background on the roots of the motorcyclist safety headgear. Today we take certain things about helmets for granted, not knowing that these things were not known by the early day motorcyclist. For instance, the helmet styles, colors, shapes, materials and sizes were a bit limited more than a century ago.

The very first helmets were made of leather and looked like an upside down cowhide diapers. They were really effective. The real revolution in the technology of helmet was in 1935 with the death of Lawrence of Arabia, a writer, army officer and a historical badass. The neurosurgeon (Sir Hugh Cairns) who treated Lawrence was forced to study the effects of head trauma from a motorcycle crash.

The cairn crash helmet could only protect a rider from penetration injuries. Herman Roth from California patented a protective helmet which had an internal energy-absorbing liner, the birth of the modern day helmet. It had everything: a floating inner suspension system, an outer hard shell with a visor, chin strap and an inner layer made of substantially nonresilient material.

In 1956, a race car driver, Pete Snell, died in a crash wearing a helmet with a design similar to the Roth design. His family and friends, in order to cherish his memory, created the well-known SNELL Memorial Foundation in 1957.

This group of engineers and scientists developed methods of testing and certifying helmet safety standards. This is how helmet testing came about.

The table below summarizes this history and gives you the year an invention, or event, occurred.

Year  Event
1867 First motorcycle steam powered
.1885 First motorcycle with petrol engine
1914 First motorcycle & a must use in lsls of Man TT
1935 The death of Arabia
1941 Helmet is obligatory in the U.S Army
1947 The birth year of AGV
1953 The first patented Motorcycle helmet(Cairns Crash Helmet)
1954 First AGV fiber Motorcycle Helmet
1957 The birth year of the SNELL organization
1961 Motorcycle helmet is obligatory in Australia
1967 Giacomo Agostini in competition in Grand Prix with full-face helmet
1973 Helmet is obligatory in the UK
1992 Motorcycle helmet is obligatory in Spain

DOT emblem safety certification

DOT Safety Certifications

DOT is the U. S Department of Transport. They establish the legal federal ratings for motorcycle helmets used on public roads in the United States of America.

What is the DOT safety rating?

A safety rating is a score assigned to a helmet, motorcycle, vehicle or truck based on its performance after going through a series of scientific safety tests by independent organizations. Safety ratings give consumers important information about crash avoidance and the safety features of helmets and different vehicles. This information will help consumers make informed choices.

DOT is considered the most basic of helmet safety ratings. Their testing procedure id thorough with strict requirements regarding penetration resistance, helmet retention system, field of view and labeling.

The DOT helmet standard applicable to helmets sold in the U.S is FMVSS 218, the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard number 218. FMVSS 218 does not approve helmets. Instead, DOT requires each helmet producer to test their helmets using independent contractors and certify them to meet the DOT standards before they can be used on U. S roads.

The ‘DOT’ emblem affixed permanently by each manufacturer after testing and certification signifies compliance with FMVSS 218.

The DOT enforcement authority is the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA).They enforces DOT standards by testing sample products in an independent lab for compliance. Manufacturers can be penalized up to $5,000 for marketing non-compliance helmets, for instance.

The 3 DOT Safety ratings

Helmet and vehicle manufacturers and drivers will be given of the 3 potential safety ratings: satisfactory, conditional, or unsatisfactory.


 This is the best safety rating. Satisfactory means your helmet, bike, vehicle or driver is in fit state and you have followed the protocols correctly.


This means your company has failed the meet the safety tests. This is a warning sign but you are still permitted to operate with the conditional safety rating.


This means the company has failed the safety testing protocols. With this rating, you have 45 to 60 days to upgrade. If not, you cannot continue to operate.

How do I check my DOT safety rating?

Now you might wonder, how do you know if a helmet is DOT? Or put another way, how do I know if my motorcycle helmet is legal?

Helmets that meet the FMVSS 218 standards have the DOT emblem sticker at the back of the outer shell. This means the helmet has met the FMVSS 218 standards. But beware of counterfeit labeling of non-compliance helmets.

To fight counterfeit labeling, the DOT emblem must include in the order from top to bottom: the manufacturer’s name, Model name, DOT below Manufacturer’s name, FMVSS 218” centered below DOT and the word ‘Certified’ below FMVSS 218

You can also visit the National Highway Safety Administration for more information

How to Keep Your Safety Rating Up?

The following will help you keep your upgrade and keep the safety rating up.

  • Data collection: Keep data on the number of accidents, maintenance, driver logs, inspections, etc.
  • Maintenance of equipment: regularly and self-inspect your equipment
  • Compliance: Stick to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration(FMCSA) and DOT regulations.

Reasons to buy DOT Certified helmets

  • They undergo a high-energy testing scheme and uses 2 strikes and the hemispherical anvil per location. The maximum energy transfer is 400 g peak.
  • The helmet is stroke anywhere by a technician within large coverage area.

Some DOT certified helmet downsides to consider

  • Random testing honor system is ineffective. Some helmets with the DOT emblem therefore do not actually meet the safety standards.
  • Some tests that are not energy-impact related are not included. For instance, testing of optics, air resistance and removability.

ECE ECE Safety Certifications

ECE Safety Certifications

ECE is a multinational certification safety standards set by the Economic Commission for Europe. So in most countries in Europe, it is not only risky but illegal to ride your motorcycle without wearing an ECE approved motorcycle helmet.

In this section, I will explain to you what does ECE mean on a helmet. Is ECE22.05 safe? And what you need to know about the ECE 22.06 certified helmet list. ECE certification helmet means the helmet has passed the safety tests of ECE safety standards.

What is the ECE 22.05 rating?

The economic commissions for Europe (ECE) come up with some safety guidelines to determine a European safety standard for traffic. These guidelines include guideline 22’ which has the minimum requirements for a scooter or motorcycle helmet.

So what does the ECE 22.05 approval entails? This means the helmet must have passed through a stringent process of scientific testing to determine whether the helmet gives enough protection to be certified or approved for use in the European roads

Is ECE22.05 safe?

ECE Certification is the most popular in the whole world, used by over 50 countries. Most people see it as one of the strictest certification in the whole world but there still have their share of criticisms.

The first criticism is that the latest version of ECE tests do not have penetration test. This test tells you how easily the helmet shell is penetrated when it collides with sharp things like spike on a fence.

The next criticism is that the ECE tests helmet at the same point for impact. So manufacturers can reinforce the exact point that is tested to increases their probability of approval.

Despite all the arguments, consider ECE certification standards as a guaranteed minimum level of safety.

ECE 22.06 Certification

ECE 22.06 is the new standard for motorcycle helmets. This does not mean your old helmet currently with the ECE22.05 certification is no longer effective.

Why the new standard? The main aim of a helmet is maximum safety. As a result, the helmet shell, liners, visor, pads and other components are always in a constant process of improvement.

The ECE.05 certification law has been in force for 20years, it is reasonable that new parameters are added in the tests. The ECE.06 tests are now made more extensive to include a large batch of helmets, while in the past 17 helmets had to be tested for certification.

There are 2 sizeable groups of proposed changes that will affect a variety of helmets and accessories. One has a direct effect on how the stringent scientific tests are carried out and where, and the other is on the actual technology used to manufacture the motorcycle helmets. Examples tests include impact tests, Different Anvils Tests, and penetration tests for different accidents.

So how will the new regulations and the ECE.06 affect you? Your ECE.05 helmet is not illegal. Note these 3 points.

  • From the start of 2021 helmets were already being tested and approved by the ECE.06 certification standards.
  • Starting from 03/06/2022, tests are ran according to the ECE.06 safety standards.
  • From 03/06/2023 manufacturers of helmets are prohibited from producing helmets with the ECE.05 standard. But older ECE.05 helmets will still be allowed to circulate.
  • January 2024 is the set date to fully put in force the ECE.06 law and therefore selling the ECE.05 helmets by retailers will be illegal

ECE 22.06 Certified Helmets List

1. Arai Quantum-X Solid Adult Street Motorcycle Helmet

Check Price & Details on Amazon

2. HJC RPHA 1N Helmet (Large) (White)

Check Details & Price on Amazon


3. Schuberth C5 Gloss White Size 57 New 2021

Check Details and Price on Amazon

4.Shark Spartan RS

5.Shoei NXR2

6. Nexx X.R3R

Reasons to buy ECE 22.05 Certified helmets

  • There is a thorough and active test of all helmets in the market with ECE certification. This activity has given birth to the new helmet certification standards ECE22.06
  • The peak energy allowable is very low at only 275 g
  • A variety of safety-related features are tested extensively. Eight forms for a range of scientific testing variables.

Some ECE 22.05 certified helmet downsides to consider

  • The latest version of ECE tests does not have penetration test
  • The ECE tests helmet at the same point for impact. So manufacturers can reinforce the exact point that is tested to increases their probability of approval.
  • Very low energy testing for the curbstone anvil and single strike, only 275 g. too low for the high speeds in the U. S

SNELL Emblem

The SNELL safety Certification Helmets

The SNELL Memorial Foundation was formed in 1957 in memory of Pete William Snell by his friends and family members who were great in scientific research. This foundation is located near Sacramento California. SNELL is one of the most popular helmet certification companies around the world.

The integrity of the employees working at SNELL cannot be questioned thanks to the fact that the company is not in association with any helmet construction company. Nor do we have any representatives from this helmet producing companies at the top level of the decision making at SNELL.

SNELL Labs and Safety Standards

What are the most important tests for helmets in the SNELL Laboratory? The current SNELL Certification standards are called M2020D and M2020R. This is because of developments in Europe and the fact that SNELL updates its safety standards for helmets every 5 years. Read below to understand the most important safety test carried out in SNELLS Laboratory.

Impact test

Impact testing is one of the crucial test that determines how a helmet will perform on the road when it hits a hard object is impact testing.

The SNELL testers or technicians position the helmet on the test head-form and drop it on different metal anvils (curbstone, hemisphere, roll bar, flat, Steel edge or horseshoe) from different heights. The process is repeated in different spots on the helmets.

The head-forms are attached to the accelerometer to help measure the peak acceleration in G’ravitational units. If the peak acceleration imparted on the head-form goes beyond the threshold value of 260-270 G’s (based on the test type and standard), the helmet will be rejected in any valid test.

Positional Stability or Roll-off testing

This test determines whether the helmet will remain on the rider’s head or go off during a crash. SNELL testers used head-forms to have accurate results.

The head-form is placed on a stand upside down at an angle of 135 degrees. The buckles and the straps are adjusted to have a snug fit. The helmet is then flip over using weights and rope. The helmet must remain on the head-form to pass the positional stability test.

The Dynamic Retention test

Here, the retention system or chin strap is tied under a device similar to the contour of the jaw. A Weight of about 23kg is added to the jaw piece for 1 minute. The chin strap is then tested by removing the 23kg weight and adding a 38kg mass at the same time in a sudden guided fall. If the retention systems the load or if its extension is below 30mm, it passes the test.

Shell penetration test

The helmed is fixed on a rigid base and 3kg sharp pointed free 3D models striker is dropped to fall on the helmet from a prescribed height. The helmet fails the test if the striker penetrates the shell and even has just a momentary contact with the head-form.

Face-shield Penetration test.

The shield on the helmet is shot along the center line at 3 different points using sharp icons soft pellets at about 500Kph from a rifle. For the shield to pass the test, the pellet must not penetrate.

The shell and face-shield tests are good for full-faced motorcycle, kart racing and special application racing helmets

Flame resistance test

A propane flame of about 790 degrees Celsius is applied to the shell, trim, face shield, and chin strap of a special application racing helmet for a specific number of seconds. After the flame is removed the fire that results must self-extinguish in a specific time. Within the process, the interior liner must not heat up to 70 degree Celsius.  This test is carried out only on special application racing helmets.

Frontal head restraint test

Frontal head restraint devices are designed to limit the forward movement of the head during a collision. Special application racing helmets have helmet M6-Terminals which allow the attachment of flexible tethers to the frontal head restraint devices.

The tethers help to reduce the stress on the neck (cervical spine) and the base of the skull by bearing much of the load of the helmet and head. The Helmet M6-Terminals also provide a way to measure the combined load applied to each tether and the shoulder straps.

Chin bar impact test

The helmet on the head-form is put on a special cradle which can fall downward freely on rigid rails or guided wires against a flat anvil. The helmet is dropped such that the chin bar hits the flat anvil.

At the design center of gravity of the head-form, the shock acceleration is measured using a tri-axial accelerometer and data recording system. If the peak magnitude of the recorded acceleration of the head-form is 275 G or less and the impact velocity measured is 5.5m/s or more, then the helmet is considered to have met the test requirement.

The rigidity of chin bar test

The helmet is fixed on a rigid base facing upwards. A 3kg pointed free 3D model striker is dropped on it from a prescribed height to fall on the helmet chin bar central position.The largest downward deflection should not go beyond a certain stated value.

 Reasons to buy SNELL Certified helmets
  • SNELL Certification is includes more rigorous and extensive testing
  • Their certification tests are done only at SNELL lab and do not involve the manufacturers
  • SNELL helmets work very well in withstanding severe shock from impact in only one accident. It is not used twice after a crash.
  • Low peak energy allowable-275 g
  • Weak points are actively searched by SNELL technicians for the most thorough testing possible
Some SNELL certified helmet downsides to consider
  • SNELL testing is very expensive, making the retail price of SNELL helmets high
  • The workers at SNELL do not have the field data on the accidents and on fake SNELL helmets.

sharp emblem

SHARP Safety Ratings

The Safety Helmet Assessment and Rating Programme (SHARP) is an independent crash helmet safety rating run by the British Government. It was established in 2007 and rates helmets by putting them through rigorous testing to give motorcycle helmets a safety score from 1 star to 5 stars.

SHARP is like SNELL in the U.S and rate only helmets that have already passed ECE22.05 ECE22.06 certification by putting them again through more rigorous testing. The aim of SHARP is to provide European riders with additional information on how to decide between different ECE certified lids.

Reasons to buy SNELL Certified helmets

  • High and low velocity impacts are used to test helmets.
  • An extensive series of impact tests
  • 5 impact spots for each helmet
  • Helmet autopsy is used to detect weak spots after impact tests.
  • The rating system range from 1 star to 5 stars and does not simply give a pass/fail score.

Some SNELL certified helmet downsides to consider

  • There is an argument over the effectiveness of the star and color code rating system
  • The rating system considers only the European crash data without considering the energy levels and conditions of the U.S riders.
  • SNELL and DOT simulate higher energy levels in their curbstone and flat anvils compared to SHARP

FIM safety certification

FIM Certified helmet

Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) is European world body that governs the global professional motorcycle racing. Up till today, FIM relies heavily on other helmet certification companies or existing international standards to homologate FIM helmets for used in its competitions. So it is difficult for helmets to pass FIM certification standards than the ECE, DOT, or SNELL safety standards.

FIM certifies only helmets with D-ring closing system (non-modular), and full-faced helmets. FIM announced it will upgrade the certification standards to include other spheres of motorcycling. For instance, off-road riding. However, we are in the dark whether this new standard will include modular and open face helmets.

FAQs about Safety Certifications Motorcycle Helmet

Are ECE helmets legal in the US?

You might ask, can I use ECE in USA? Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) safety standards are meant to tests helmets for safety in Europe. ECE22.05 and ECE22.06 are the present safety standards that certify helmets in Europe.

In the USA, DOT (Department of Transport) set the safety standards for all helmets on U.S roads to meet.So if you are asking: how do I know if my motorcycle helmet is legal?, and you are in the U.S just check if the helmet has the DOT emblem at the back of the outer shell.

Or if it has the SNELL emblem on it. In Europe you will should check for the ECE, FIM, and SHARP(UK) emblems on the helmet shell. If the helmet has it, it means it has met the safety standards and is legal to ply the roads in Europe.

What is a DOT certified helmet?

DOT does not certify helmets! DOT (FMVSS 218) sets the standard and allows each helmet manufacturer to test their helmets to meet the standards. The National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) enforces DOT safety standards by testing the helmets for compliance in an independent laboratory.

What does FMVSS 218 mean?

The Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard number 218 (FMVSS 218) is the DOT standards. This is the standards set by the Department of Transport (DOT) for manufacturers of helmets to tests their helmet to meet for the safety of riders in the U.S.

How do I know if my helmet is safe?

This question is like asking: how can I learn my current rating? Check if the helmet is manufactured to meet the safety standards set by DOT, SNELL, and the U.S safety testing body, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and others. For a DOT certified helmet will have the DOT emblem sticker at the back of the outer shell.

If you are in Europe, the certification is done by ECE, SHARP & FIM. So look for the emblems of these certification bodies on the helmet you want to buy.

Second, make sure the helmet fits snugly on your head by measuring the helmet right in the shop. For an old helmet, replace it once it has crashed by the foam liners, become deformed and no longer absorb impact shock after the first shock.

Wrapping up

If you are a motorcyclist, it is incredibly vital for you to be aware of the safety standards of the motorcycle and the headgear you put on while riding. Yes, the helmet is the most important piece of motorcycle apparel you have to consider serious for your safety.

This article has given you the guide to the safety standards of at least 5 companies that certify helmets to have met the stated standards. We have seen the DOT, ECE22.05 and ECE22.06, SNELL, SHARP and FIM safety standards. You can judge for yourself which certification is best for a helmet and which certification systems cover the most helmets?


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