A frequent question asked by someone shopping for
a helmet is "how should the different safety standards influence
my purchase?". My answer to that question is straightforward.
The best helmet to buy is one that is comfortable, fits you properly
and that you're willing to wear every time you ride. Whether the
helmet displays both the SMF and DOT labels, or just a DOT label,
you are assured of the best protection available.
Each of the two major standards, Snell and DOT, have
their strengths and weaknesses. One of the first differences you
notice is the disparity in average price. Is a $400 helmet were
really four times better than a $100 helmet? Certainly not from
the safety standpoint. Within the last few years helmets that sell
for less than $100 have surfaced with Snell's seal of approval.
What gives? Fit, finish, and advertising cost more than meeting
various safety standards.
Value shoppers follow the adage "you get what
you pay for". With this in mind it becomes evident that there
are other factors driving helmet prices besides different safety
standards. Fit, finish, and quality of materials used must improve
hand-in-hand with higher prices in order to satisfy our desire for
value. Next time when you're reading your favorite cycle magazine
and come across full-page ads for a particular helmet, take small
consolation in the knowledge that a part of the money that you would
plunk down for that neato skid lid helps pay for that ad.
Inspect the helmet yourself to determine your satisfaction
with it. Does that meet your personal standards for finish and fit?
Is the helmet within your desired price range? Does the dealer support
this brand by stocking spare parts? These questions are the ones
that really need to be answered when shopping. The testing standards
are important, just don't pass up a helmet that fits you perfectly
just because of which safety sticker.
and answer from a Snell Foundation Spokesman
all of the elements of safety helmet construction, what would you
say is the most important?
"This may sound funny, but Snell thinks
it should be comfort and wearability. The reason for that is that
nobody will wear a helmet they can't stand to have on their head.
There is no Snell-certified helmet that stands head and shoulders
above any other. They're all equal in terms of protection. The criteria,
then, becomes comfort and fit."
We at Motorcare think this is a good, sensible
approach, and helps to put the differences in testing standards
in prospective for typical users.
Recent Magazine articles and answers to readers
questions have validated my viewpoint. The following is an excerpt
We have done a comparison of helmet standards,
and the current European standard is the best out there, based on
the most up to date information. Snell is essentially a race car
standard (multiple hits against roll bars are its calculated crash)
and liners approved under this standard are too hard for the average
motorcycle crash (it's always best to have an "average"
crash isn't it?). Unnecessary concussions can result from a Snell
helmet vs. DOT approved models. The DOT standard is actually based
on real-life data, and is perfectly adequate, it just sounds generic.