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Keeping SHARP on Helmets

August 30, 2009
UK Government Helmet Safety Scheme Logo

UK Government Helmet Safety Scheme Logo

Rockingham, England – Not everything that comes out of the UK’s Department for Transport (DfT) is bad for biking. The DfTs helmet safety rating system SHARP (Safety Helmet Assessment and Rating Programme) is an innovative way of encouraging motorcycle and scooter users to buy the best equipment they can afford.

In the UK there are two helmet approval standards in use – BS 6658:1985 and UN ECE Regulation 22.05. Both of these standards ensure that helmets on sale in the UK offer a minimum level of protection to the wearer in the event of an crash. However, there will always be products that exceed these minimum requirements. SHARP keeps motorcycle and scooter riders informed of these differences in performance so that they can make a more informed choice when buying a helmet.

SHARP sprang from an idea offered by the British Motorcyclists Federation during discussions that took place around the development of the UK National Motorcycle Strategy in 2003-04. It took until 2008 for the publication of the first SHARP ratings the intervening years had been spent overcoming industry inertia over the project, in particular the Auto Cycle Union (ACU) who were jealous guardians of their Gold and Silver helmet Approval Scheme.

SHARP uses a wider range of tests than the current helmet approval standards in use to give riders more information about how much protection a helmet will offer in the event of a crash. Tests are carried out at various speeds for linear and oblique impacts and impact locations, head forms are used to check helmet fit. Following the tests helmets are given a safety rating of between 1 and 5 stars.

SHARP is undoubtedly a useful tool when choosing a helmet but we badly need a new helmet approvals standard to replace both BS 6658:1985 and UN ECE Regulation 22.05.

These standards are comparatively old and in particular do not include provision for noise, misting or ongoing batch approval at point of manufacture. Indeed the current helmet standard only provides protection from impact at speeds below 23mph, although it must be said that many helmets exceed that figure. A new standard could also include provision for communication systems, head up displays and, most needed of all, photo chromatic visors.

For nameless and less scrupulous manufactures the current standards have considerably loop holes in relation to the impact test, making helmets stronger in the test area, and in the lack of on going batch testing. It is extremely easy to present a helmet for testing that is not necessarily representative of the production version.

When buying a helmet look for the SHARP logo and check out the SHARP rating. Visit the SHARP website here……

© Back Roads Rider 2009

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