Feb 7, 2008

Motorcycle Helmets: the standards thing

I had a most horrifying discussion with an industry colleague at the Auto Expo. Unfortunately, I didn't have the time to bring it up here. This colleague works in the helmet business and is in the position to know these things. But first a little background.

The American DOT (Department of Transport) standard, any many other standards in the world, follow what is known as the honour system. Which says, more or less, that I, the manufacturer am a responsible entity and I will ensure that my products meet the standard. That means, every helmet that says it meets or exceeds DOT standards does so. Not that DOT tests them, but that the manufacturer, verifiably, has the ethical wherewithall to ensure this is true.

Are you beginning to be scared already?

Now, in Europe or the US, I wouldn't have a problem with this. They value human life far, far more than we do at the moment, and helmets, at the end of the day, are life-or-death devices, so no one messes around.

I asked this chap how the IS:4151 was enforced in India. He smiled. It seems (please correct me if this information is wrong) that all you really need to put an ISI sticker on your helmet is the ability to prove that you can prove your helmet can pass the standard. Get it? You only need to show that you have the apparatus, as described in the standard, that can put helmets to the test. You might need to test a helmet or two to convince the BIS that the apparatus works, ditto the lid, but that's more or less it. Continuous product testing, random sampling and all are left to internal devices. The BIS, according to the source, does not actually test helmets, and random sample checks are few and far between.

Whoa.

Further, if I were out there buying a new lid, I'd try, as hell, to get a Snell M2005 spec helmet. There's a list at the Snell website, so identifying the models shouldn't be hard. Why? Because Snell, first of all, is a non-profit organisation dedicated to testing and certifying safe helmets. Second, its a voluntary thing. Lid makers pay Snell to test their products and then purchase the certification stickers from Snell to put on their lids. Third, Snell re-tests random samples to ensure that the lids continue to meet the Snell standard. Perhaps the only thing you can hold against the Snell standard is that as of 2005, the ECE22.05, the European standard, is actually tighter in terms of permissible peak impact force than Snell's M2005 (275g versus 300g).

In India, almost all of the KBC lids that have just gone on sale pass the M2005 tests. The Wife needs a new lid. Hmm...

Related links in this series:

Other links on helmets

8 comments:

Deaths Head Roy said...

Wow...that sure is scary...I am sure that smile from the american must have sent shivers down your spine....

snapper said...

man, don't even go there...
the Snell/dot debate is endless...
just check out a few motorcycle forums and you'll see how vicious this debate is...
ISI mark..hah!!!
only thing one needs to look for is a EURopean cert. like ECE/ 22-05

DOT is voluntary standard...
Snell is quoted to be a little to sturdy(lot's of reading required to understand that quote ;-))

check this out http://www.webbikeworld.com/motorcycle-helmets/ece-22-05.htm

maximus said...

u suck big time. where is ur photo

Hrishi said...

Sir.. just dropped my helmet :( have a dent on it now.
Planning to use it for commutes, and buy a new one for trips.

Have a budget of @2K. I guess, i can only get an AGV in that price, right? Any advice?

Revhard said...

So the Sparks is good . And its visor ? Does it match the AGV in terms of clarity and scratch resistance ?

Anonymous said...

DOT helmets are tested. Here are the test results for 2000-2006:

http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/cars/testing/comply/fmvss218/index.html

Scoot safe,
Tom

rearset said...

Thanks for the heads-up Tom!

Dot Helmets said...

Hi,

Motorcycle helmets are form of protective clothing worn on the head and usually made of metal or some other hard substance. Thank you.