How Do Motorcycle Helmet Standards Compare (DOT, ECE, Snell)?

Driving a motorcycle is both a lot of fun and very risky. Just look at the research: Per mile traveled, motorcyclists were killed 26 times more frequently in accidents than drivers and passengers in any other vehicle, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration figures.

A helmet is designed to reduce that risk. By protecting your head from the impact of a collision, a properly fitting, high-quality helmet helps prevent brain injuries and other head trauma in a crash. Because it offers that crucial last line of defense, your helmet needs to be as strong and sturdy as possible to be effective when you need it most.

That’s where motorcycle helmet safety standards come in. Far from an unnecessary, bureaucratic nuisance, federal safety standards help ensure that the motorcycle helmet you buy is capable of withstanding the shock of a crash and protecting your head from impact.

If you were involved in a motorcycle accident, you could be facing mounting hospital bills and significant time off work. Get in touch with a San Diego motorcycle accident lawyer at Jeffrey E. Estes & Associates for advice on how to proceed.

Auto accident attorneys Jeffrey E. Estes and Alton J. Smith hold AV Preeminent ratings from the prestigious Martindale-Hubbell attorney rating service. Call 855-290-8080 for a free initial consultation.


How Do Motorcycle Helmet Standards Compare?

Four basic components make a motorcycle helmet effective at keeping your head safe and secure:

  1. A hard outer shell;
  2. An impact-absorbing liner;
  3. Snug comfort padding; and
  4. A strong retention system, or chinstrap.

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Safety standards ensure that these elements are as safe as they can be. These standards are based on the results of impact, penetration, and drop tests. Currently, three safety standards apply to motorcycle helmets in the U.S.:


  1. Department of Transportation (DOT) FMVSS 218;
  2. Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) 22.05; and
  3. Snell Memorial Foundation M2010.


The DOT requires helmet manufacturers to test their own products to ensure they comply with a variety of safety measures. Penalties for producing non-compliant helmets include steep fines of around $50,000 per helmet.

The ECE standard is accepted in 47 countries and is similar to the DOT standard except for one factor: Instead of requiring manufacturers to self-test, the ECE asks that motorcycle helmet brands send in their products for independent, batch testing.

The Snell Memorial Foundation is a private, not-for-profit organization that goes further than the standard-setting measures of the DOT and ECE by assisting manufacturers in their efforts to comply. They do this by offering prototype testing – a rigorous process that helps helmet brands create a safer product while it is still in the design stage.

If you drive a motorcycle regularly, you need the safest helmet you can find. Unfortunately, a serious collision can result in devastating injuries even with the proper safety gear. If you have been hurt in a crash, contact an accident lawyer at Jeffrey E. Estes & Associates for advice.

Our auto accident attorneys have recovered more than $150 million for our clients in successful settlements and verdicts. Call 855-290-8080 to arrange a free consultation, and read more about motorcycle injury claims at

Jeffrey E. Estes & Associates

501 West Broadway, Suite 1650

San Diego, CA 92101