Driving tests

Helmet crash testing – choosing the safest helmet

Helmets that are sold in New Zealand conform to one of a number of standards:

  • UN/ECE Regulation No. 22: Protective helmets and their visors for drivers and passengers of motorcycles and mopeds (Europe)
  • Australian Standard AS 1698: Protective helmets for vehicle users
  • New Zealand Standard NZS 5430: Protective helmets for vehicle users
  • Snell Memorial Foundation: Helmet Standard for use in motorcycling
  • Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 218: Motorcycle helmets
  • British Standard BS 6658: Specification for protective helmets for vehicle users (for type A helmets only)
  • Japan Industrial Standard T8133.

You can read more about the standards here.

The standards, though, are a minimum level of protection.  Two agencies conduct and publish helmet crash testing data which rates helmets based on their overall protection beyond the standard. Not all helmets are created equal – some have far superior protection than others. It’s estimated that in the UK alone, 50 lives could be saved each year if motorbike riders wore the safest helmet available.

In Australia helmet testing is performed by CRASH (Consumer Rating and Assessment of Safety Helmets) which is run by a consortium of a number of government agencies and a motoring organisation.

In the UK, a similar system is run under the acronym SHARP (Safety Helmet Assessment and Rating Programme) which is run by the Department for Transport.

The systems are very similar, but not identical. CRASH rates helmets that are available in Australia, and SHARP rates helmets that are available in the UK. There is some crossover. SHARP has more helmets reviewed than CRASH.

CRASH ratings

CRASH protection performance is assessed using the performance of the helmet during the impact (in protecting the head), and the helmet’s ability to stay on the wearer’s head during a crash.

The helmet must cover the frontal and temporal areas of the head, not disintegrate during the impact and be able to minimise injuries to the head under different types of impact.

The test uses a simulated human head in the helmet and the impacts are tested on a flat surface to simulate a roadway and an edge to simulate a kerb.

The helmet’s ability to absorb an impact without creating intolerable deceleration in the head, or unnecessary rebound, is calculated by looking at the ratio of speeds before and after an impact. The helmet should remain in place throughout the impact. An additional test is performed by attempting to roll the helmet off the head by applying an upward force to the rear of the helmet at its base.

CRASH tests full-face, open-face, modular (flip up) and dual purpose (e.g. motocross) helmets. It does not test half helmets as they don’t provide the required level of protection. For an explanation of different types of helmets, click here.

CRASH gives each helmet two scores out of 5: one for protection and one for comfort. The following table shows the protection rating for a SparX S-07.

SparX S-07
76.27
50.20
  • Size: XXS, XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL
  • Type: Full Face
  • Weight: 1.644 kg Average from 3 size L helmets
  • Shell Material: ABS
  • Retention System: Double D ring
Crash Protection data breakdown
Energy reduction in a higher speed crash on flat anvil 23.98/30
Energy reduction in a higher speed crash on kerb anvil 22.08/25
Energy reduction in a lower speed crash on flat anvil 12.3/15
Helmet’s ability to minimise the rotation of the helmet in a crash 6.3/10
Helmet coverage 10/10
Helmet chin strap’s strength 1.06/5
Helmet’s ability to minimise rebound 0.46/5
Total 76.27/100

This table shows the comfort rating for the same helmet

Comfort level data breakdown
Helmet’s Operation and Fit 10.78/20
Visor’s Ability to Resist Fogging 0/20
Noise Inside the Helmet 96.83 dBA (13.16/20)
Ventilation 10.05/15
Aerodynamic Neck Loading 7.90/10
Helmet Weight 1.78/5
Vertical Field of View 2.67/5
Helmet’s Ability to Seal out Weather 3.84/5
Total 50.20/100

For CRASH test ratings, click here.

SHARP ratings

SHARP, like CRASH, gives a simple 5-star score but only for protection. The results given are more simplistic, but do show points of impact and how well they fare.

This link is to the SparX S-07 review and you can see that it only gets 3/5 stars from SHARP, but 4/5 stars from CRASH. Therefore all ratings should be considered in light of their competition.

sharp sparx s-07 helmet review

driver training

Darren is a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists and the NZ Motoring Writers' Guild

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Posted in Advice, Motorbike
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