The Snell Memorial Foundation (SMF) was formed in 1957 after William "Pete" Snell, a race car driver, died from massive head trauma. he sustained in a racing accident. The non-profit organization focuses on learning more about the components of head injuries, and how to prevent them by using helmets. Through their research the foundation has developed a standard for approving helmets that is continually tested and updated every five years.
There are two key differences between a DOT- and Snell-approved helmet. First, is the testing standards the helmets go through, and second, is the verification of the results.
Although their testing process is very similar, SMF requires their certified helmets to withstand a greater impact and absorb more force than the DOT standards.
Both standards drop the head forms on flat and hemispherically shaped anvils in order to simulate different types of impacts. However, Snell also uses an edged anvil that specifically tests the integrity of the helmet's shell.
DOT and Snell test each helmet two times at four different impact zones. DOT drops their helmets from a 6-foot height on the flat anvil and from a 4.5-foot height on the hemispherical anvil. Snell on the other hand, drops the helmets from a 10-foot and 7.5-foot height on both anvils, which simulates a more severe impact.
While there's no guarantee a DOT-approved helmet has actually been tested, the purchase of a Snell-approved lid ensures that the product has been evaluated under scrutiny. A Snell-certified helmet also meets and exceeds the DOT standards.
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