Are Modular Motorcycle Helmets Safe?


Your helmet is one of the most important safety equipment that keeps you protected while you drive your motorcycle.

For this purpose, the one you purchase must provide you utter comfort and safety. Two of the most important types of helmets are modular and full-face helmets.

While the two may look the same, there are quite a few differences in their shape, design, and features. Let’s dive into the details of modular motorcycle helmets and determine whether they are safe.

Are Modular Helmets Safe?

These helmets are not designed to be worn open-faced when you ride your motorcycle. The open face option is only given for users to breathe fresh air once a while when they have parked the bike. Although there is a hinge that shields the face, the modular helmet is still deprived of the safety features that are provided by the full-faced helmet.

What are Modular Helmets?

Modular helmets are designed to provide comfort as they have a shield that opens into a full, open-faced helmet. They are designed for users who want to be able to breathe in fresh air while they are stuck in a traffic jam or have their car parked at a stop.

Modular Helmet Usage

There are several different types of helmets, and each of them is used for particular kinds of surfaces or riding. The modular face or flip-up helmet comes with a visor that can flip up or slide up and open the helmet’s front side. Some even come equipped with another internal visor to protect the wearer from sunlight.

These types of helmets are used by cruisers or tourers/adventure seekers as they are designed with an upright driving position kept in mind. Their eye openings are straight and focused for on-the-road riding, and the chin bar is designed to sit on the lower portion of your face. Some even come with Bluetooth speakers and anti-fogging coating on the visors to protect from any fog or dust.

Certifications

When you purchase a helmet, you would see that they have different certifications mentioned in them. These are different safety standards that motorcycle helmets need to certify in. There are usually three common ones found in the US, which include DOT, Snell, and ECE. However, the most common ones or the one you’ll come across the most often are DOT and Snell. Let’s take a further look at these standards and decode them.

DOT

DOT stands for the Department of Transportation, and this is the standard that has been set in place by the NHTSA or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. For a motorcycle helmet to pass this certification, there are a few impact tests that need to be cleared, and the helmet must conform to some standard requirements.

dot modular motorcyle helmet

The tests that are conducted are usually done by placing a dummy head or head-form inside the helmet with all its measuring equipment in place. The test is done in order to measure the g-forces and speed when the helmet is dropped to a specific kind of surface from a determined height. The pass or fail grade is given to the helmet, depending on the energy level that is transmitted inside the helmet onto the dummy head.

Another test that is conducted to test whether the helmet is DOT-certified is a penetration test. This measures the helmet’s strength by checking how much pressure and penetration it can resist until it breaks open or cracks.

Finally, the last test that is conducted is the retention test, which makes sure that the helmet stays put on your head in case of an accident. The four tests that are conducted for a DOT certification have the following specifications:

  1. In one of the tests, the helmet is dropped from a 1.83m height to a flat anvil ground.
  2. In another test, the helmet is dropped from the same height to a spherical anvil ground.
  3. The next one is a retention test, where weight of 300 pounds is applied to the system for 120 seconds.
  4. The last test involves throwing a pointed striker onto the helmet to check its strength. This is known as the penetration test.

The DOT certification by the NHTSA applies to the helmets constructed for usage on the road while driving. However, if you want a safer or sturdier helmet, you should look for a helmet used for off-road purposes as it provides better security and has other certifications.
If you want to make sure that the helmet you’ve purchased or are thinking of buying is DOT-certified, then there are a couple of things that you need to ensure first.

The DOT label for real certifications includes the name of the manufacturer, the DOT underneath the manufacturer’s name, FMVSS 218 (DOT Standards) in center alignment below DOT, and the word certified written below this safety standard. This safety measure will ensure that you buy helmets with the real certification label on them and not the counterfeit ones that will put your life in danger.

NHTSA sets the standard on the DOT certification for helmets after getting random samples of the helmet from the manufacturer and sending them to different testing labs to ensure its compliance with safety measures. If the manufacturer produces a faulty or uncertified product, then they also have to pay penalties, which can be as much as $5000 per product.

Snell Helmet Standard

The Snell helmet standard came into place by the Snell Memorial Foundation in 1957. Snell goes above and beyond the standard government-approved testing procedures and aims to provide assistance to manufacturers.

snell modular motorcycle helmets

The manufacturers are given guidance and detail about procedures that will ensure safety for the users. They also offer prototype testing for the manufacturer’s helmets so that they can learn more about safety standards.

After the manufacturers complete their development phase, they provide samples to individual testing labs in order to seek certification for their helmets. Snell uses standardized testing to make sure that there is no bias or fault when checking for verification of compliance.
If the helmet given passes all the necessary tests and evaluations, then the manufacturer receives the M2010 certification and can say that the helmet is Snell-certified.

After the certification is given and the sample is approved, there can be no changes or alterations made in the process of helmet production as this can revoke their certification and can be detrimental to the company and its customers.

In order to make sure that the manufacturer is abiding by the certification standards, the Snell foundation makes random checks post-marketing to test whether the helmets are still verified for compliance. If they fail to pass the tests, then the certification is revoked, and the helmets are not Snell-certified.

In order to pass for Snell certification, there are several tests that need to be passed. Let’s take a look at the different tests that are conducted before the provision of a Snell certification:

One of the conducted tests is the impact absorption test, which is almost similar to the ones done for DOT and ECE. In this test, the helmet is dropped from a predetermined height with a dummy head. This is done to measure the energy transmitted inside the helmet and onto the head when it is dropped on a fixed anvil.

The shape of the anvil changes when the helmet is tested and the highest acceleration allowed during this drop test is 300 G. The height of the drop test also varies, depending on the anvil so that the different velocities reached can be measured from the impact point.

Another test that is done is called the penetration test, which involves dropping a pointed striker weighing 3 kg onto the helmet with a head form inside. If the striker penetrates the helmet, then the helmet automatically fails the certification.

A test that is used by the Snell Foundation, which is not conducted by other certification boards, is the ‘roll-off’ test. In this test, the helmet’s positional stability is tested by attaching a 4kg weight to the rear edge of the helmet with a cord.

The helmet is positioned at a 135-degree angle so that when the weight is released, it will try to hit the head-form. The test is repeated for a 180-degree angle, and if the helmet rolls off the head-form, the test is failed.

Snell tests for a new certification standard after every five years. As of now, the current standard label is M2015, which is quite different compared to M2010. All in all, the testing or requirements for a Snell certification differ from a DOT one in the following ways:

  • Snell doesn’t just test the dome of the helmet but also the strength of the chin-bar
  • Using an air rifle, the visor’s strength and bulletproof capabilities are also measured
  • The helmets are dropped from not one particular height, but different ones that are higher heights than DOT
  • Five different-shaped anvils are utilized rather than the two in DOT certification

Conclusion

Every test that is administered in order to check for safety standards is different from the rest. If you want a normal helmet that is used for on-the-road driving, then a DOT-certified helmet will work just fine for you. A Snell-certified helmet is safer, but it isn’t necessary if you are looking for an everyday helmet. However, remember that no matter what helmet you purchase, it is better than wearing none at all!

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