Project: Motorcycle Helmets: Consumer Safety Information - Performance Testing

Reference: S0707/V8

Last update: 06/01/2009 09:58:57


Helmets on sale in the UK satisfy European legislation and are proven to offer good protection to motorcyclists. However, there is substantive evidence available that some helmets offer protection significantly greater than the minimum required by regulation. The Department for Transport considers that by raising the current levels of performance, casualty figures could be reduced and that the most efficient way to deliver these benefits is through the dissemination of objective consumer safety information on the comparative performance of available helmets. The enhanced assessment uses test methods which are proportionate, justifiable and robust, with assessment criteria reflective of the current and future state of the art and user's exposure and injury risk. To deliver a performance rating to the consumer we need to subject a number of currently available and approved motorcycle helmets to a series of precise and accurate impact tests performed by a competent laboratory and using high quality apparatus. Over time, as performance levels increase, we shall look to further develop the programme by refining and improving test methods and assessment criteria.


Motorcyclists represent one of the most vulnerable road user groups in the UK with more than 500 riders losing their lives annually on our roads. Of these, 80% receive strikes to the head and in 70% of these the head injury is the most serious injury.
Based upon a collaborative European study, COST 327, (European Co-operation in the Field of Scientific and Technical Research, Action 327) the severity and location of impacts to motorcycle helmets has been characterised. More recently, the Department has completed research (Motorcyclists' helmets and visors - test methods and new technologies - S0232/VF ) that developed test and assessment methods which, it has been suggested, could form the basis for providing objective information to consumers concerning the relative safety performance of motorcycle helmets available in the market.
It is considered that, by providing this information to consumers, helmet manufacturers may be encouraged to raise the level of safety of their products and so deliver road casualty reductions.
The test and assessment methods described in this document assess motorcycle helmet performance for protection during low speed impacts, which are quite common, and high speed impacts which are less common but carry a higher risk of injury. Building on best practice, the test method employs the variable head form masses used in regulation but these are used in conjunction with the test apparatus defined in British Standard (BS) 6658:1985. Linear impact tests onto both flat and kerbstone anvils (as required by regulation) will be conducted and the individual performance from each of these tests, together with the performance measured for oblique impact, will be aggregated to provide a single helmet score.
This work specification details our requirements for the physical impact testing of motorcycle helmets. We expect the contract to commence in June 2007 and complete in July 2011.


INSPEC International
56 Leslie Hough Way, Salford, Greater Manchester, M6 6AJ

Contract details

Cost to the Department: £515,000.00

Actual start date: 01 August 2007

Expected completion date: 31 March 2012


SHARP Ratings
Author: DfT / SHARP
More information:

Summary of results

  1. This project carries out the performance testing of motorcycle helmets for the Safety Helmet Assessment and Rating Programme (SHARP).