As compared to the DOT motorcycle helmets, Snell approved motorcycle helmets lead the industry in safety. The Snell approved helmets are standardized and checked by the Snell Memorial Foundation (SMF).
The Snell Memorial Foundation is privately owned and is not associated with the federal government in the way DOT is. The foundation is made up of a group of concerned citizens who have come together to set guidelines to judge whether a motorcycle helmet is safe to be used.
The helmets are tested by dropping them to see if they can absorb the shock that the motorcycle rider’s head will feel, if he falls off his bike or gets into an accident. This is the standard testing, but Snell guidelines also further test the helmets to see if they survive being hit with a steel anvil or thrown against a wall.
The difference between a helmet tested with the Snell guidelines and the DOT guidelines, is that the manufacturer determines if the helmet can be approved for the DOT label. However, the Snell Foundation will determine if a motorcycle helmet can be considered Snell approved. Therefore, it is the company’s job to test their helmet and see if it complies with the DOT guidelines.
However, the Snell Foundation will test the helmets for themselves to see if they can be approved under the Snell guidelines. Therefore, the manufacturers are more accountable to the products they make when it has been tested by the Snell foundation.
There are lots of ongoing debate about if it is possible for a DOT approved motorcycle helmet to also be designated a Snell approved motorcycle helmet. This is possible if a manufacturer meets the minimum guidelines for them to designate a helmet DOT approved.
From here, the manufacturer can further submit the helmet for testing to have it designated as a Snell approved helmet. In this way, if you buy a helmet with both DOT and Snell approval, then you will know that you have a quality helmet that has passed safety ratings.
“Snell Memorial Foundation”