West Virginia law requires all motorcycle riders and passengers to wear helmets. While doing so may help you avoid an expensive ticket, it may also save your life. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that riding helmets reduce death risk by nearly 40%. 

Not all motorcycle helmets offer the same protection for your head, neck and face. To boost your odds of surviving a serious motorcycle accident, you must choose a safety-rated riding helmet. While purchasing a new motorcycle helmet is a task you should not take lightly, you do not have to be a helmet expert to find the right gear. During your search for new headgear, you may encounter a few different rating systems. 

The U.S. Department of Transportation 

U.S. helmet manufacturers must comply with guidelines from the Department of Transportation. Before earning a DOT seal of approval, helmets must undergo basic testing. This testing ensures the helmet meets or exceeds standards for structural retention and penetration resistance. 

The Economic Commission for Europe 

Safety-rated helmets from Europe must meet quality standards set by the Economic Commission for Europe. The ECE has similar standards to the DOT, with a few added requirements. Specifically, the ECE test measures a helmet’s accident-avoidance features. 

The Snell Memorial Foundation 

The Snell Memorial Foundation has strict requirements for racing helmets. To win Snell approval, helmets must go through a battery of challenging tests, including helmet stability and ease of removal. While you certainly can trust a Snell-rated racing helmet to protect your head, it may offer more protection than you need for casual rides. 

The Safety Helmet Assessment Rating Programme 

SHARP is a rating organization from the United Kingdom. Unlike other rating bodies, which give pass or fail results, SHARP assigns each tested helmet numerical scores in several categories. Consequently, if you purchase a helmet with a SHARP safety rating, you can immediately identify the helmet’s strengths and weaknesses.