ECE 22.05

ECE 22.05 was created by the Economic Commission for Europe, is legally required in nearly 50 countries, including many outside of Europe, though it is often referred to as “the European standard”. ECE-22.05 is also approved for competition by many organized race associations, such as the AMA, Formula USA and Moto GP.

Lower impact velocity/energy.
This standard features a maximum threshold of 275 G’s. Impact testing is not as stringent as that of either the Snell M2015 or DOT standards, in that ECE 22.05 only requires singe impacts on any particular location on the helmet (DOT and Snell demand two impacts per location) and it tests on two anvils—flat and curbstone—at lower velocities than the Snell standard. Moreover, ECE 22.05 does not include a shell penetration test.

Proponents of the ECE 22.05 approach argue that motorcyclists are unlikely to hit the exact same location on their helmet during any single crash—making double impact testing unrealistic and unnecessary. They also contend that while the lower impact energies generated by the curbstone anvil pose less of a challenge for helmet manufacturers, the shape of this particular anvil is a closer match (than the edge or hemi anvils) to what riders would actually encounter on the roads.

One thing that is beyond debate: the ECE standard strictly defines which sections of the helmet may be impacted during testing. Snell and DOT, by contrast, allow technicians the flexibility to pinpoint spots on the helmet that are most prone to failure and subject those spots to impacts. Critics of ECE’s approach suggest that in clearly outlining and restricting the places on a helmet that can be impact tested, the standard may unintentionally create a situation in which manufacturers build helmets that easily pass the ECE test, yet only offer partial protection.

A wider range of non-impact tests.
ECE 22.05 puts helmets through a wider battery of safety tests (moving beyond impact and penetration tests) than either Snell M2015 or DOT. This standard, for instance, tests the abrasiveness of the helmet shell. A helmet shell that exhibits a high degree of friction on impact is likely to cause the rider’s head to twist more on impact. This, in turn, may increase rotational accelerations and the risk of traumatic brain injuries. ECE’s abrasion test is designed to help manufacturers develop helmets that minimize twisting forces transmitted to head and neck. The ECE standard also includes provisions for testing helmet shell rigidity by measuring how much the shell deforms under loads of up to 630 Newtons.

The ECE, like Snell, does not allow manufacturers to self-certify that they have passed their standard. Instead, the ECE requires that each manufacturer send a batch of helmets to a designated third-party laboratory charged with verifying that the submitted helmets satisfy the standard’s requirements.

*This chart compares impact energies across standards, per each standard’s required drop heights. For illustration purposes, it assumes a headform weight of 5 kilograms, though some standards actually test a variety of different headform sizes/weights).

Snell M2015

The Snell Memorial Foundation was created out of a desire to guarantee that powersports helmets actually did what they were advertised to do—save lives. In the 1950s, there was a tremendous and risky range in helmet quality and Snell sought to level the playing field by creating testing standards that would subject helmets to very high-energy impacts. M2015 is the latest iteration of a standard aimed at street riding. It succeeds both M2005 and M2010.

Less common, more challenging.
As with all Snell helmet standards, M2015 is a completely voluntary standard, whereas DOT (United States) and ECE 22.05 (Europe) standards are mandatory. Helmet manufacturers who’ve sought Snell certification have generally done so because of the prestige often associated with passing the “toughest” standard. Indeed, M2015 requires that test helmets be hit with greater force (from higher heights and at higher velocities) than both DOT and ECE 22.05.

Snell M2015 requires impact testing on flat, hemispherical and edge anvils. The Foundation contends that this greater range of anvils more accurately represents the wide range of objects a motorcyclist may strike during a crash. Others have argued that it’s something closer to overkill. What is beyond debate is that Snell has standardized the most challenging impact test for motorcyclists. The Edge anvil is particularly difficult to pass.

Does Snell’s standard hit too hard?
Critics of Snell’s approach argue that a helmet designed to pass this standard’s extreme impacts may not perform well in less high-speed, high-energy accidents. The basic idea here is that manufacturers must use a harder foam in the helmet to survive those hits and that harder foam may transmit more energy to the rider’s head during a slower-speed crash.

In the past (with M2005 and prior Snell standards), Snell-approved helmets did, in fact, have a difficult time passing Europe’s ECE 22.05 standard—particularly the Extra-Small, Small and Medium-sized helmets. They transmitted more than the 275 G-limit mandated by ECE 22.05.

Snell contends that the root of the problem had more to do with the different headforms required by each standard. ECE 22.05 calls for five different headforms of varying weights. Snell long called for fewer headforms.

Beginning with their M2010 standard, Snell adopted a similar headform policy as the ECE. Snell M2015 now utilizes six headform sizes. The result: Snell-approved Extra- Small, Small and Medium helmets featuring softer, more resilient foams that test more successfully under the ECE 22.05 standard. Though Snell-approved helmets are less common in Europe than in North America, it’s now possible for companies to manufacture a helmet that will pass both standards. Snell’s M2015 standard has a 275 G threshold for its larger-sized helmets and even lower G thresholds for smaller helmets.

M2015 includes both a chin bar impact test and a face shield penetration test. Snell technicians shoot the face shield in three different points along its centerline with a pellet gun. If any of the pellets penetrate the face shield, the helmet fails. Like all standards (except for ECE 22.2) the Snell standard gives Snell’s technicians great discretion in seeking out potential weak spots in the helmet shell and subjecting them to impacts—something Snell argues makes for more legitimate test results. As with all Snell standards, certification is handled directly by the Snell Foundation, which also conducts random, follow-up tests following certification. Companies cannot self-certify their helmets under the standard.

*This chart compares impact energies across standards, per each standard’s required drop heights. For illustration purposes, it assumes a headform weight of 5 kilograms, though some standards actually test a variety of different headform sizes/weights).


In the 1970s the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard # 218 went into effect—establishing mandatory safety standards for all motorcycle helmets sold in the United States for street use. Since the Department of Transportation is the agency tasked with administrating the standard, the standard has become known as “DOT” helmet standard.

Given its legal status, the DOT is by far the most common motorcycle helmet standard in America. But how does it stack up against its European counterpart, the ECE 22.05, or the voluntary Snell M2015?

High energy impacts, but a relatively high G threshold.
At first glance, the DOT may not impress. While both Snell and ECE standards fail helmets that transfer more than 275 G’s to your head during an accident, the DOT standard allows for a peak acceleration of 400 G’s—a level that seems, comparatively speaking, quite high.

The DOT standard attempts to reduce impact severity by stipulating that the transfer of G’s can never exceed 200 G’s for more than two milliseconds. Supporters contend that this requirement reduces the actual G threshold to something well below 400 G’s. Critics, on the other hand, have long argued that the standard could be improved with a simpler maximum threshold. DOT has no positional stability test nor chin bar test, which we supplement at the Dome by testing to the Snell positional stability and chin bar tests for our DOT only helmets.

When it comes to actual impact testing, the DOT standard strikes a balance between the Snell and European standards. To wit, DOT requires multiple high-energy impacts on both hemispherical and flat anvils. It also features the same shell penetration test as Snell’s M2015.

The only self-certifying motorcycle standard.
The DOT standard however doesn’t require that helmets pass as many hurdles as either Snell M2015 or ECE 22.05. DOT, for instance, doesn’t require a chin bar test or, surprisingly, a roll-off (positional stability) test—something that is core to most helmet standards.

Finally, detractors of the DOT standard note that the standard does not require third-party certification. Each helmet manufacturer or distributor is responsible for ensuring that their helmet truly meets DOT standards before they apply DOT certification stickers to their helmets.

The Department of Transportation does contract with third party testers who verify that DOT-certified helmets truly meet the national standard. Some argue, however, that this approach could lead manufacturers to pass off non-complying helmets as DOT-certified.

*This chart compares impact energies across standards, per each standard’s required drop heights. For illustration purposes, it assumes a headform weight of 5 kilograms, though some standards actually test a variety of different headform sizes/weights).