UK publishes SHARP helmet ratings

Safety ratings can save lives

By Motorcycle.Com Staff, Jun. 13, 2008
The world’s first motorcycle helmet safety rating system has published its initial findings.

Safety Helmet Assessment and Rating Programme (SHARP) set up by the United Kingdom’s Department for Transportation, tested some of the most popular full-face helmets on the market and the results were released this week.

Road Safety Minister Jim Fitzpatrick says the SHARP ratings help motorcycle riders make informed decisions that can save lives.

“Too many motorcyclists – 599 in 2006 – are dying on our roads. They accout for just 1% of all road traffic, but for 19% of all those killed,” says Fitzpatrick. “But if all riders wore the safest helmets available, 50 lives could be saved each year. That is why we started the innovative SHARP scheme and are delighted to publish the first results.”

The UK has mandatory helmet laws for motorcyclists.

SHARP puts helmets under two types of tests: a linear impact test and an oblique impact test. Based on the results, SHARP applies a rating between one to five stars.

In the linear impact test, helmets are dropped from a certain height onto various anvils. Researchers measure the acceleration of the helmet and the amount of energy it absorbs.

The oblique impact test measures the rotational acceleration of a helmet caused by friction. Test helmets are again dropped onto an anvil, but this time the anvil is inclined and has a rough surface, causing the helmets to rotate on impact. The results of this test can determine the risk of brain and neck injury upon impact with the road. Experiments are conducted with test heads of various sizes and weight.

All of the helmets that SHARP tests already meet minimum legal safety standards. Only full face helmets have been tested so far as they comprise nearly 80% of the market in the UK but testing may extend to flip-front helmets and open faced helmets may be examined in the future.

SHARP has rated 61 helmets as of June 13 and will release additional helmet ratings on a regular basis on its website http://sharp.direct.gov.uk/. So far, six helmets have received five-star ratings: the AGV S-4, the Arai GP5x, the Bell M1, the HJC HQ-1, the Lazer LZ6 and the Shark RSR2.