Refinements ahead for the helmet performance standard heard “round the world”
Not too long ago, we covered the most recent developments on the motorcycle helmet performance standards front.
Since then, we also shed some light on the results of independent lab-testing of DOT “certified” helmets, which raised the question of whether the regulations aren’t due for a tune-up.
In June 2020, the Inland Transport Committee of the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) approved proposed revisions to United Nations Regulation 22 on Protective Helmets. The revisions would create ECE 22.06, replacing the current helmet standard referred to as ECE 22.05, effective in 2023.
Strictly speaking, if you are a motorcyclist in the United States, the ECE helmet standards are not applicable, at least from a regulatory mandate perspective. Rather, the standard that does apply is the Department of Transportation (DOT) Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 218.
However, if you are one of our readers in any of the 64 countries around the world that have adopted the ECE 22.05 standard, then the updates will apply directly to your equipment choices.
Having said that, if you are a rider in the U.S., where the DOT standard is mandatory, but not exclusive for your helmet options—you can choose to use helmets that have more than one certification.
For example, DOT and ECE 22.05 or DOT and Snell Memorial Foundation. If that’s your preference, then the new 22.06 standard will also apply to your riding gear when the standard goes into effect.
That is good news—here’s why: the DOT standards do not require helmet manufacturers to provide documentation proving that their products have actually been tested and passed the tests in the standard prior to being labeled “DOT Certified” suggesting that they have.
Indeed, under current U.S. law, there is no requirement that any motorcycle helmets are actually tested by the manufacturer or any third party they may choose, either before or after the helmet is released to the market. That may be a factor in why more than 40 percent of the helmets carrying the “DOT Certified” label have failed performance tests since 2014 when they were tested by a third-party lab.
The DOT standard is only enforced by limited (very small sample size) post-marketing testing by a third-party under contract with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). If you prefer to use a helmet and you want a model that has been tested and proven to pass the certification tests that apply, you might want to consider looking for a helmet that is certified under a system that requires the helmet to pass the tests before to being labeled as “compliant” in addition to bearing the DOT certified label.
Helmets that bear the ECE certification cannot be labeled compliant until after they pass all the applicable tests conducted by independent third-party labs. Similarly, helmets that bear the Snell Memorial Foundation certification, cannot bear that label until after they pass the required performance tests.
For example, you could look for a helmet with DOT/ECE 22.05 or DOT/Snell certification labeling. That won’t necessarily mean the helmet has been tested for compliance with the DOT standards, but it would indicate the product has been tested to the others.
What changes are coming in ECE 22.06? First some background on the definition of helmet configurations in the regulation:
(J) Jet: helmet without any part to cover the lower part of the face. Open face.
(NP) Jet: helmet with a detachable or movable part that covers the lower part of the face that does not protect the chin. (Must be marked with a warning that the helmet does not provide protection for the chin.)
(P) Full face: Helmet with a detachable, movable, or integral (permanently fixed) part of the helmet covering the lower part of the face and intended to protect the chin
(P/J) Modular Helmet: means a helmet, equipped with a movable or detachable protective lower face cover, that meets the requirements for both conditions of use with or without chin guard in position. Chin protection is only guaranteed with the lower face cover in position. In modular helmets, the retention system tests must be done in J and P configuration.
The regulation (Sec. 6.17) addresses the function of integral or internal sun shields: “A sun shield shall not restrain or prevent the movement of the visor. On opening the visor, the sun shield can pivot in the working position. By means of a simple movement, the sun shield shall be able to be moved separately from the visor out of the visual field.”
In addition, the sun shield, whether externally or internally mounted cannot restrict the field of vision to less than the required 105° of peripheral vision, 7° upward field of view from horizontal and 45° downward, must transmit 80 percent of visible light and must be optically clear and correct.
The regulation addresses the issue of “conspicuity” or how visible the helmet is to other drivers in both daylight and low light situations. That portion of the reg (Sec. 6.18) deals with the use of retroreflective materials on the helmet, which may be either standard factory-applied or provided with the helmet and applied by the end-user. That part of the regulation is up to the jurisdiction adopting ECE 22.06 as to whether this provision is applicable. If the jurisdiction elects to use the provision, the reflective material must cover at least 18 cm2.
The external face shield or visor must be able to withstand the impact of a steel ball of 6 mm diameter and 0.86g traveling at 60 meters per second (M/sec) without the impactor punching through, shattering, or dislodging the shield.
Provisions are also included to define the maximum and the minimum light transmittance of a visor capable of two different levels, as photochromic, liquid crystal, or equivalent visors.
The regulation also deals with the “anti-fog” properties of the external face shield providing an objective standard by which to quantify whether the face shield is truly “anti-fog” or not saying: “The internal face of the visor is regarded as having a mist retardant facility if the square of the specular transmittance has not fallen below 80 percent of the initial value without misting within 20 seconds.”
Helmets with accessories are tested to assure the equipment has no adverse effect on performance and that the helmet and/or visor still meets the applicable requirements. Testing is done with and without the accessory in place to assess any effect on energy absorption, presence of sharp edges, and alteration to the field of vision. For testing, accessories are fitted according to the helmet manufacturer’s specifications. Approval is valid only for accessories in use during certification testing.
A number of the requirements in the current ECE 22.05 standard are retained. For example, there may be no projections from the helmet surface that exceed 2.0 mm; impact attenuation peak acceleration is specified as a maximum of ≤275g (≤2,400 head injury criteria or HIC) for the standard linear impact and high energy impact test (≤2,880 HIC) and ≤180g (≤1,300 HIC) for the low energy impact test. Impact tests shall have a minimum headform velocity of 8.5 M/sec.
Tests for rotational (oblique impact) forces and abrasion resistance remain unchanged. Impact point specifications and helmet environmental conditioning criteria remain the same as do tests for strength, abrasion, and stretch of the chin strap retention system.
To see the entire proposed ECE 22.06 update, visit ECE/TRANS/WP.29/2020/ (unece.org).