Helmet Safety Ratings 101

A helmet is one of the most important pieces of motorcycle gear to have for any motorcycle rider. In fact, it is the most common safety item to have, even for the least dangerous roads. Most people get the basic concept that helmets keep you safer when you’re riding, but construction of this equipment is complex. Safety ratings hold manufacturers accountable to certain standards, so that you can trust the products that you’re buying and know you’re getting the best motorcycle safety gear.

There are three main safety ratings out there: DOT, ECE and SNELL. Understanding the basics of each should help you have more confidence when you’re out shopping for your next helmet. Knowing the safety ratings will definitely make you a well-informed buyer and help you pick the right helmet as per your riding requirement.


With this rating, the Department of Transportation sets the standards, and helmet manufacturers are expected to follow them. To hold these companies accountable, the DOT exercises random sampling to determine whether a helmet is abiding by the set regulations. With lower standards and fewer testing phases than the other two safety ratings, DOT helmets may be considered the least reliable. So, when going for helmets you might not choose one that is a DOT helmet. If you normally go for smaller rides in very safe roads, you might be fine with a DOT helmet.

The Economic Commission for Europe approves ECE-rated helmets via thorough third-party collision and impact testing. What holds ECE slightly higher than DOT ratings is its practice of using various head shapes and sizes during crash tests. Considering the fit of your helmet may make a big difference on the amount of damage to your skull, this is an important thing to test. The only caveat is that ECE’s impact testing rarely delivers a second impact to the same location on the helmet.


Snell safety ratings hold the honor of representing the best head protection you can find. These helmets are the ones used in professional racing, due to their vigorous collision tests. Unlike both DOT and ECE, a Snell-approved helmet has been tested with multiple impacts to the same spot to prove its durability. Methods used at Snell have been developed by several scientists and engineers to ensure maximum predictability. If you are an avid motorcycle rider who loves to ride on any trail, you must not compromise with your safety and go for a Snell-approved helmet for maximum protection. Yes, these helmets might be a little too costly for some people, but it can be a good investment and last a very long time.

An understanding of safety ratings makes you a savvier shopper. Consider which of these standards seems to suit the way you ride the most, and that’ll tell you which to focus on when reviewing your choices. Always safety first and when you know about the quality standards, you are going to make the best decision for your safety no matter what kind of rider you are.