Another big topic with plenty of opinions and and misinformation. Again, we will just brush the surface here. DOT stands for Department of Transportation and is the U.S. mandatory helmet certification to be used on public roads. With a DOT certification, helmets are tested by the manufacturer to meet DOT standards, but there is no reporting or third-party testing/verification required even though the government does do infrequent random checks to help ensure standards are being met. DOT testing involves three tests. First, an impact-attenuation test in which the helmet is dropped onto a rounded anvil and hard surface. Second, a penetration test where an object is dropped onto a stationary helmet. Third, a retention system test, stressing the retention strap and closure system stay in place.

The Snell Memorial Foundation is a non-profit organization which helmet manufacturers apply to in order to receive certification. The Snell rating uses higher impacts and examples of all helmet models carrying a Snell rating must have passed rigorous testing in a Snell laboratory. One of the controversies surrounding Snell testing is their requirement of impacting a helmet twice in the exact same spot. A scenario that is highly unlikely in the real world. Snell also buys actual production helmets at random to check that standards are being upheld. ECE stands for Economic Commission for Europe and is the most popular certification around the world. ECE is similar to DOT in that it is a government-regulated certification. Manufacturers must apply for ECE ratings in a manner similar to the Snell arrangement. ECE uses somewhat comparable impact tests as the others with varying heights and speeds. Without getting into any more detail here, the main take-away is that there are regulatory agencies ensuring helmets meet standards to keep customers safe. It’s a nice way to keep manufacturers honest and to give consumers that piece-of-mind.