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New helmet tests flawed

Published: 17 September 2008

Updated: 19 November 2014

New official helmet tests have focused on hitting helmets in the wrong place, MCN can reveal. 

They include more impacts to the side of the helmet than required by European standards because testers believe this is the part most likely to be impacted in an accident.

But research in fact suggests the front of the helmet is most likely to take the brunt of a crash - and testers appear to have simply misunderstood the data.

The Government’s SHARP Helmet Safety Scheme claims that 53% of impacts are to the side of helmets and includes extra impact tests on the area. Asked to reveal the source of the claim, SHARP officials directed MCN to a report which in fact said only 23% of impacts were to the side, while 64.8% were toward the front.

The report said 53% of visible external damage was to the sides but experts say this is irrelevant as damage can spread over the helmet as riders fall or roll, whereas the initial point of impact is where protection is needed most.

Report author Dr Bryan Chinn confirmed most impacts were to the front of the head. He said external damage could be superficial and “may not have caused much in the way of injury”.

A SHARP spokesman pointed out that the tests also include impacts to the front and rear of helmets. He said: “Helmets scoring well in the SHARP programme offer good levels of protection uniformly around the helmet in line with the witnessed impact distribution.

“Those helmets that score less well have variances in performance at these different positions and in some cases these differences are very significant in terms of the level of protection available.”

Trusted helmets like Arai’s £450 range-topping RX-7 scored only three stars in the controversial SHARP tests, while budget lids like Lazer’s £60 LZ6 got a maximum five.

To read why the chairman of the BSI standard for helmets thinks tests focusing on the front would have produced different rankings, get this week's MCN, on sale now.

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