Snell-certified helmets are indeed better than Dot. Snell tests are done on an extreme level making the Snell certification the gold standard of safety helmets. That said, all the legal helmet for motorcycle has to be at least Dot certified. If it isn’t Dot approved then you can even get fined for using a helmet that isn’t legal.
What Kind of Tests Are Done by Snell and Dot?
Snell and Dot both does mostly similar kind of test. But the Snell tests are stricter. For example, Dot drop tests are done from a 1.83m height but the Snell drop test is done from various heights. That said not all tests are similar to each other.
Dot tests consist of mainly two or three kinds of tests. These are the drop test, penetration test, and retention strap test.
First, the helmets go through various drop tests. These drop tests are done from a height of 1.83m. There are two types of anvil Dot uses for the test. One is a normal flat anvil. The other one is a spherical anvil.
After the drop test, they also test if the helmet is strong enough to not get penetrated by a sharp object. This is done by keeping the helmet in one place and dropping the striker onto the helmet.
Finally, the retention strap is tested with 300 pounds of force for two minutes. This makes sure that the strap can handle the force in case of an accident. The last thing you want is the helmet falling off your head in an emergency.
Snell tests are similar to the Dot test yet they are very different. They also do the drop, penetration, and retention test just like Dot. But they also add some more steps to it. Other than that, they also do some additional tests.
For drop tests, they use five different shaped anvils (Flat, Hemisphere, Curbstone, Rollbar, Edge, or a Horseshoe type) to make sure the helmet can withstand any kind of surface.
They don’t have a specific height for the drop test. The height can vary from helmet to helmet. According to Snell’s website, it is done to make sure the acceleration remains roughly the same on all the helmets. This makes it easier to calculate and test how hard the helmets are being impacted.
The penetration test is done by using a 3 kg sharp-pointed 3d models striker. The striker is dropped on the helmet from a certain height. To pass this test, the helmet has to stop the striker from penetrating too deep or completely stop the striker without penetration. If the striker comes in contact with the head foam it is considered a fail.
For the retention test, Snell first uses a 23 kg weight for one minute. Then this 23 kg is simultaneously removed and a 38 kg mass is added in a guided fall. If the strap can hold it within 30 mm then it is considered passed.
Chin Bar Test
Snell tests the chin bar separately. For this test, the helmet is placed with the chin bar facing up. Then a 5 kg weight is dropped on the chin bar. To pass this test the chin bar must not exceed the stated downward distance.
The stability test is a bit more complicated than the other one. This makes sure that the helmet doesn’t give out shock waves that can harm the wearer when hit. For this test, the helmet is put on a dummy head. Now the head is placed on a 135-degree angle facing downward.
A rope is tied on the chin bar. The other end of the rope consists of a little platform with a 4 kg weight. This 4 kg weight is dropped on the platform while the rope is hanging from the chin. If the helmet doesn’t roll off from the head then it is considered as passed.
Face shield/Visor Penetration Test
For the face shield, three lead pellets are shot with an air rifle at a speed of 500 km/h. These pellets must not penetrate the visor for it to pass the test. For a racing helmet, the bump must have to be less than 2.5 mm.
Aside from these, there are a few extra tests that are done only for a racing helmet. These are the flame resistance test, frontal head resistance test, and the chin bar impact test.
Snell Vs Dot
We can see from the discussion that Snell goes through a lot more tests than Dot. But does that actually make the Snell better or is Dot is enough? Yes, that does make Snell better.
Snell goes through more tests that test various environments and conditions. It makes sure no matter where you are the helmet is always going to protect you without any flaw.
Sadly, that cannot be said for Dot. Dot only does a few basic tests compared to the Snell. It leaves room for flaws when comes to the real world. These tests can’t always guarantee full safety in a real situation.
Dot is the minimum requirement for a helmet need to be legal. But the Dot tests are not carried by the actual Dot. These tests are done in the manufacturer’s own lab. As a result, many people believe that most of the Dot tests are very lackluster.
Despite what many people believe, since the Dot tests are done by the manufacturers, there is a strict rule for maintaining quality. According to it, if a brand is found falsely giving Dot approval, they will be fined 5k dollars per helmet. So it is safe to say, false Dot certification is very risky for any brand.
On the other hand, all Snell certifications are done in Snell’s own lab. No third party has any say in it. No matter what the helmet is, they do not compromise when it comes to safety. So you can be sure that a Snell-approved helmet will hold up to your expectation.
Q: Are Snell-approved helmets worth it?
Ans: Yes, you never know when something might happen. With a Snell helmet, you’ll be protected no matter what.
Q: How do you know if a helmet is Snell approved?
Ans: There will be a sticker with a barcode inside or outside of the helmet to let you know it is Snell approved.
Ans: Only a few modular helmets are Snell approved.
If you are thinking about whether you should get a Snell or Dot helmet, Snell is always going to be the better choice. Although some types of helmets like the modular helmets don’t have many Snell-approved products. In that case, you can buy a DOT or even better an ECE-approved one.