DOT motorcycle helmets are one of the main standards for
safety including many of the top helmet manufacturers. Most experienced riders
would not dream of the idea of purchasing a helmet that is not to DOT
standards. Some of the current standards for purchasing helmets worldwide
include the ECE 22.05, DOT and Snell. Each one of these professional standards
measures the performance of a particular helmet on a certification standard and
the current standard was last updated in the year 2013.
The DOT helmet standard comes from the Department of
Transportation. Its official name is the FMVSS 218 and this stands directly for
the federal motor vehicle safety standard number 218 for motorcycle helmets.
The standard covers any type of helmet that sold in the US for use on the roads
and most need your helmet manufacturers will have to pass this standard in
order to have their helmet listed for sale.
According to the national Highway safety administration
there is an enforcement on helmets that need to be worn on the road. This means
that if you plan on taking your motorcycle out on a US highway you need to at
least have the DOT certified helmet. Even if you plan on using a helmet for
off-road purposes or in some type of competition, using a helmet that has been
professionally certified for road use by this standards commission would likely
be a very good idea as well.
You may have seen the DOT sticker on your helmet but what
you may be curious to know is that standards for this certification do
regularly change. With the last certification update happening in 2013, if you
have an older helmet there's a chance that you could be using your motorcycle
with an old certification style helmet. This could be in violation of your
insurance as well as local traffic laws.
In order to achieve a DOT certification the helmet
manufacturer creating road helmets in the United States needs to self certify
all of the models that they want to sell using this DOT emblem. This involves
rigorous quality standards testing. In order to keep the testing nonbiased the
NHTSA will acquire a random sample from every manufacturer at several
independent testing facilities to verify that the manufactured version of the
helmet will continue to meet compliance standards.
If a manufacturer is found guilty of putting out a helmet
with the DOT emblem that is not compliant with the quality standards put out by
the NHTSA, every noncompliant helmet that they have placed out could be subject
to a $5000 fine.
Some of the main compliance standards for every helmet
including testing includes its ability to absorb energy, the resistance to
penetrate of objects, the way that it continues to be effective after one
serious impact as well as the way that it handles various small impacts. There
is quite a laundry list of tasks that any helmet needs to go through in order
to receive the new product labeling under DOT.
As well as safety and impact standards DOT also tests the
effectiveness of the helmet to the rider. The standard only recognizes helmets
that have 105° of peripheral vision from the midline of the helmet as well as I
helmet that has projections from the surface that cannot exceed 5 mm. These
standards help to work on anti-distraction methods while riders are on the road
and to preserve the aerodynamics of the helmet as well.
The main impact test for the DOT standards measures what
would happen if the helmet is dropped on a flat surface anvil at 400x the force
of gravity. There is a sensor head placed inside of the helmet that needs to
remain undamaged during the drop. Measurements during the test are performed
with the internal sensors.
The piercing test involves an accelerated striker moving
into the helmet at a fixed height. A gel head form is placed inside the helmet
and cannot be impacted by the accelerated striker from a drop. The striker can
penetrate the helmet but not enough to make any contact with the head form
inside the helmet.
Straps are also tested on the helmets under extreme tension.
Straps are first tested at 50 pounds for 30 seconds, 300 pounds for 120 seconds
and then a max load is put on to measure the full stretch and displacement of
retention straps on the helmet. This test will help to protect riders and
ensure that straps will not give way even in the event of an accident.
When purchasing a helmet that's a few years old it's
important to remember that the DOT motorcycle helmets standard previous to 2013
was not as rigorous. The older DOT standard is no longer the standard
recognized by insurance companies or by transportation officials. The Older DOT
label is much more simple and the new FMVSS 218 stickers are easily recognizable.
Newer stickers must include the manufacturers name, the
model name or number of the helmet, The DOT logo, The certified badge as well
as FMVSS 218 in a centered fashion below the DOT logo. By making sure that your
next helmet has access to a sticker that is placed at the back of the helmet
and that bears all of these elements, you can make sure that you are getting a
helmet that is certified under the latest standards for use.
DOT motorcycle helmet standard looks different
from some of these newer manufacturers and it will not bear the name of the
newest standards level. Remember this if you are trying to buy a helmet that is
older than the year 2013 or if you are still wearing a helmet that has been
around since the year 2013. Representing yourself wearing the DOT standard and
riding on the roadways could invalidate your insurance or potentially put you
at risk. While the old standards were reasonable for testing law enforcement
officials will be looking out for new standards in areas where helmets are
required for road wear and for the purposes of insurance.