Motorcycle helmets have saved an estimated 1,885 and 1,872 lives in 2016 and 2017, respectively from serious injury according to the U.S. Department of Transportation 1. By constructing a helmet that effectively manages energy from impacts, motorcyclists are able to significantly reduce brain trauma during accidents and are more likely to survive crashes. Regardless of which helmet rating standard you choose, the use of a helmet with a legitimate certification will reduce your chances of serious injury.
The Economic Commission of Europe (ECE) 22.05 certification requirement is the minimum standard a helmet must meet before operating in Europe. It is mandated for all motorcycle and scooter riders who ride on European public roads. This standard is the most widely accepted worldwide and is required in almost 50 countries. Although a minimum requirement in Europe, a helmet that is only ECE certified is technically not legal to wear as a form of protection in America. In order to legally wear a helmet with an ECE certification in the United States, it must be dual certified with DOT.
The ECE Standard consists of multiple tests to ensure pre-established safety criterion have been met prior to helmet issuance to the consumer 2. These tests include:
Prior to the conduct of these tests, all helmets will be subjected to environmental conditioning in order to simulate the various environments a rider is reasonably expected to face during his or her ride. For ambient temperatures, the condition is set from 68ᵒ - 86ᵒF and a relative humidity of 60-70%. Low temperatures are set from ⁻7.6 - ⁻0.4ᵒF. High temperatures are set from 118.4 – 125.6ᵒF. Water immersion, in this conditioning period, is coupled with ultraviolet radiation by a 125 watt xenon-filled quartz lamp for 48 hours at a range of 9.8in and continuously sprayed with water at ambient water temperatures at a quarter gallon per minute. All conditioning, with the exception of water immersion, will last for a duration no shorter than four hours and no longer than six hours. 30 minutes prior to each of these phases, a liquid solvent must be applied within six inches of the chin strap fittings and the remainder of the external surface including any chin guard. This solvent is designed to recreate damaging chemicals such as sweat, skin oils, and others found in motorsports in order to simulate the effects of such chemicals on the helmet during dynamic periods.
Impact Attenuation Test
The Impact Attenuation Test assesses four impact sites on one helmet in a predetermined sequence consisting of the frontal area, the left and right area, the top center of the helmet, and the rear area, respectively. When a helmet with a protective lower face cover is being tested, an additional point on the lower face shall be impacted following the four other sites. During the test, the helmet shall be dropped from a height that will yield a velocity of about 28ft/s onto flat and kerbstone anvils. A helmet shall be considered sufficient as long as peak acceleration does not exceed 275G, the Head Injury Criterion (HIC) is less than 2400, and the helmet does not become detached from the head form.
Concurrently with the impact attenuation test, a helmet’s projections and surface friction are also evaluated. If objects project from the helmet, they may incur rotation-inducing forces if they do not properly detach or shear away. Because the drop tests for the ECE rating are completed on a guided wire system (unrestrained) as opposed to the guided (restrained) railing systems conducted for DOT and Snell requirements, both an impact test and projection/friction test can be done simultaneously. This unrestrained system allows for helmets to be tested in a way where the center of impact and the center of gravity may not be aligned.
The ECE standard also requires helmets to be tested for structural rigidity. After undergoing ambient temperature conditioning, a helmet is placed between two parallel plates under load in order to measure helmet deformation. Initially, the load is set at 30N at 20mm/min. After two minutes, the distance between the plates is measured. The load is then increased by 100N at 20mm/min. After two minutes, the process of adding an additional 100N load at 20mm/min is repeated until the load reaches 630N. It is then reduced to 30N at 20mm/min. At this point, the difference in distance between the helmet's original shape and its compressed shape are measured. This process is used on each side of the helmet as well as front to back. The helmet passes this test if the deformation measured does not exceed what was measured under the initial load by 15mm.
Retention System Test
The chin strap retention system is also tested for dynamic and static displacement. In order to accomplish this evaluation, a helmet is secured to a headform and attached to a mass weighing 22lbs. For dynamic displacement testing, the mass is dropped from a height of 30in. For static displacement testing, a mass weighing 33lbs is attached to the helmet and left for two minutes. The helmet passes the dynamic and static displacement tests if displacement does not exceed 35mm and 25mm for each test respectively. Damage to the retention system is acceptable provided that it is still possible to remove the helmet easily from the headform.
In addition to this test, the chin strap is also tested for micro slippage, inadvertent release by pressure, ease of release, and the durability of the quick release. After taking a sample strap, one foot in length, which includes the tension and adjusting device, it is placed in a reciprocating clamp, rotated for 500 cycles and subsequently measured. The total slippage shall not exceed 10mm. A strap is tested for the inadvertent release by pressure by pressing a force of 100±5N directly in the line of movement of the release mechanism. The ability to release the retention system is tested by applying a static force of 500±10N to the retention system for at least 30 seconds and then removed. If the opening can be operated by a force not exceeding 30N, the system passes. Durability is tested by unlocking and locking the system under a load of 20±1N for a total of 500 cycles.
The ECE rating is very specific when it comes to what visors are tested and what specific component of the visor is tested. If a helmet does not provide chin protection (i.e. open-face and half-shell helmets), the respective visors, if applicable, are not required to be tested provided that a label is attached to the helmet. Prior to the conduct of any tests, the visor must be removable and also must have the ability to be maneuvered out of the field of vision with a simple movement of one hand. They must also “be free from any significant defects likely to impair vision, such as bubbles, scratches, inclusions, dull spots, holes, mold marks, scratches or other defects originating from the manufacturing process in the field of vision. Visors shall, in addition, be sufficiently transparent, shall not cause any noticeable distortion of objects as seen through the visor, shall be resistant to abrasion, resistant to impacts and shall not give rise to any confusion between the color used in road traffic signs and symbols 2.”
Like most rating standards, the field of vision must allow for 105ᵒ from the center of the visor. However, the ECE rating is unique in that it also tests for luminous transmittance, light diffusion, spectral transmittance, refractive powers, mechanical characteristics and optical quality. These tests are administered three times in order to acquire the average of results. If a visor does break apart, it is tested for sharp splinters. Splinters are classified as any segment of a visor having an angle less than 60ᵒ. For this test, a drop hammer weighing 6.6lbs would be dropped from a height of approximately 3ft. If there are no sharp splinters, the visor passes the test.
 U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, National Center for Statistics and Analysis, Traffic Safety Facts, Crash, available at https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/#/
 Economic Commission of Europe, Uniform Provisions Concerning the Approval of Protective Helmets and Their Visors for Drivers and Passengers of Motorcycles and Mopeds, (2002), Addendum 21, Regulation No. 22. Retrieved from https://www.unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/trans/main/wp29/wp29regs/r022r4e.pdf.