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The Ultimate Guide to Motorcycle Helmet Standards: DOT (Part 1)

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Department of Transportation (DOT)

It is completely understandable that you might not have come across one of these helmet standards; DOT, Snell, and ECE 22.05, but highly unlikely since they are the three most recognizable standards in the market today. Let’s take a look at what they mean and give you a little bit of information to get you steered in the right direction if you’re in the market for a new helmet.

The Ultimate Guide to Motorcycle Helmet Standards: DOT (Part 1)


The Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard #218 (FMVSS 218)

DOT stands for “Department of Transportation” and the actual standard is the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard #218, or FMVSS 218 for short. FMVSS 218 applies to any helmet sold in the United States that is meant to be used on public roads. Here is the funny thing though, for a manufacturer to say that their helmets meet the DOT standard, they don’t have to prove that to the National Highway Safety Administration before stating that it meets the standard. Instead, manufacturers can certify their own helmets with no immediate oversight before putting the DOT certification on them. In addition, NHSTA does not do any kind of testing themselves. In fact, NHSTA does a random sampling of the helmets from the market after they’ve claim DOT standard and send these out to an independent testing lab. If the NHSTA finds that any helmet is noncompliant for any reason they can fine manufacturers up to $5000 per helmet.


How The Testing Is Done

The FMVSS 218 standard tests three particular areas in order to test the helmet performance; retention system effectiveness, penetration resistance and energy absorption. Various tests are performed to make sure helmets pass these standards. The acceleration test is done by dropping a helmet from a fixed height onto a flat surface and by measuring the acceleration energy, the DOT standard allows up to 400 G of peak acceleration. The penetration test is done by dropping a “piercing striker” onto a helmet from a fixed height and making sure that the piercing striker does not in fact penetrate deep enough to actually make contact with the inside of the helmet, your head. The retention test, tests the retention straps by putting them under load in tension and increasing the load weight and time in order to make sure they can perform under pressure. If the straps break or tear then they do not meet the standard. One thing that all helmet standards have in common is that they all require a minimum of 105° of peripheral vision from the midline of the helmet.

The Ultimate Guide to Motorcycle Helmet Standards: DOT (Part 1)-1

The New DOT Standard 2013

In an effort to lessen confusion amongst customers regarding whether helmets are actually DOT certified or not, a new standard label was established. Instead of having a simple DOT sticker displayed on the helmet, something that had been easily pirated in the past, new helmets must now have a new DOT label which will include: the manufacturer’s name, model number or name, “DOT” immediately before the manufactures name, “FMVSS 128” below DOT, and the word “Certified” below FMVSS 128. Keep a look out for these new labels when looking for a new DOT certified helmet.

In our next blog, we will continue to discuss helmet standards with the Snell helmet standard followed with the ECE 22.05 helmet standard. Remember to come back often in order to stay informed.

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