DOT helmet standard revamped

An unnamed CMG staffer uses this helmet during an unidentified, biannual scooter rally. Its certification is of dubious origin.
An unnamed CMG staffer uses this helmet during an unidentified, biennial scooter rally. Its certification is of dubious origin.

In an effort to deter the sale of non-conforming “novelty” helmets, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has amended the FMVSS 218 safety standard. The DOT has made changes to the official DOT decal in an effort to make it more difficult to reproduce.

Novelty helmet vendors often apply fake DOT stickers to flimsy helmets — helmets that would never pass certification tests — to make them look legal. Fake DOT stickers in the size and shape of the real thing are also sold under the guise that the letters stand for something other than ‘Department of Transportation’ (Doin’ Our Thing is one such moto).

The new DOT stickers will now include the manufacturer’s name and model number, “FMVSS No. 218” and “Certified”, as well as the helmet’s size in numerical terms, instead of the current “small”, “medium”, etc. This should make it easier for authorities to identify a legitimate DOT helmet, as well as making it more difficult to reproduce a bogus certification label.

A recommendation that the stickers be applied beneath a clear coat of paint was rejected because not all helmets use a clear coating, and that it would be relatively easy to apply a clear coat to a novelty helmet. The DOT estimates the cost of the new labelling to be about 2¢ per helmet.

Certain test procedures have also been amended.  The retention system test now specifies a load application rate of 1-3 cm per minute, and it has been re-characterized as a quasi-static test instead of a static test.

The impact attenuation test has also been modified to be less ambiguous. Test velocity and tolerance limits of the test velocity are now specified, which eliminates the need for a drop height specification.

Definitions for “impact site” and “identical impacts” have also been revised, and the DOT has also adopted helmet conditioning tolerances, allowing helmets to be conditioned for four to 24 hours in ambient conditions before testing.

Helmets sold in Canada must bear DOT certification, so these changes will likely be adopted here.


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