Q I just finished re-reading your 2005 "Motorcycle Helmet Performance: Blowing the Lid Off" article and was wondering if there has since been any discussion between Snell and the various experts mentioned on more reasonable real-world tests and G-force allowances for head injuries. I am a first-time motorcycle buyer and value my life highly. I am currently in the market for a helmet and want to know if Snell has changed its standards or if there have been any major changes in motorcycle helmet manufacturing. I know it's only been four years, but you never know, right?
Donovan K Hamrick
San Rafael, CA
A We slid your question in front of Dave Thom, currently a Senior Consultant at Collision & Injury Dynamics in El Segundo, California, who has been testing protective headgear since 1981. Here's his take: "An excellent and timely question. Back in the day, there were only two helmet standards: DOT and Snell. More recently, manufacturers are offering helmets meeting one of two European standards-ECE and BSI-along with mandatory DOT compliance. Our laboratory testing and Dexter Ford's 2005 article explored the differences between these standards. All the helmets did very well and showed an industry-wide improvement from similar tests we performed in the early '90s. However, the Snell-qualified helmets had generally higher accelerations than those meeting the other standards.
"To your point, something has indeed changed-or will soon. Snell's upcoming M2010 standard acknowledges that smaller heads weigh less than bigger heads and vice versa-something we've argued for years. While M2010 has not yet taken effect, it has the potential to change the results we found when "Blowing the Lid Off" was published four years ago. To quote Snell, 'M2005 and M2010 are, effectively, incompatible.' We hope that means we'll see even better performance for those newer helmets."