A HELMET TESTING SCHEME TO BE PROUD OF!
Last November at the Motorcycle Live Show, the NEC, Birmingham, the SHARP Program was presented with two awards - the Prince Michael International Road Safety Award for its outstanding contribution to improving road safety, and the International Motorcycling Federation's annual Road Safety Award for its achievements in helping motorcyclists.
SHARP, the Safety Helmet Assessment and Rating Program, was established in 2007 as a British government quality ratings scheme for motorcycle helmets. SHARP claim that their rating system is intended to "help you make a more informed choice when choosing a helmet". But how does it work? This is SHARP explained...
SHARP does this by making 32 tests on the impact rating of seven helmets, ranging in size for each model. They then rate the helmet models from one to five stars.
What makes SHARP so, well sharp, is the way that they test the helmets. Each model is purchased by them from a retail outlet so that they are the same as the ones that are bought by you and I. SHARP doesn't receive helmets from various companies to test, they seek them out themselves, testing the very same helmets that we find in the shops.
Their tests are done at different speeds. This enables them to gain much more truer results than that of standard regulation testing as it better represents the variety of speeds that people choose to ride at, because, of course, the impact you have will depend on the speed that you are going.
The test itself is representative of 'real world' crashes. Helmets are impacted against anvils to represent flat surfaces and kerbs at three different speeds to ensure the helmet provides good protection during both high and low severity impacts. National and international crash study analysis is done by SHARP to make sure they have selected the test points that are most true to life.
All in all, that's a pretty comprehensive test for just one model of helmet. And, as of the date of this publication, SHARP have rated 304 helmets. They have been busy!
SHARP state that "a properly fitted helmet is the best form of protection available to a motorcyclist". Wearing a well fitting helmet cushions the blow of a crash by spreading it over a larger area of energy absorbing material, and, if your helmet falls off when you fall, it simply isn't going to do that. Even if your helmet is fastened around your head it doesn't mean you will necessarily be safe in the event of a crash as helmets offer different levels of impact protection, and this is what SHARP is so ardent about making public.
The SHARP website offers a guide into how to pick the right helmet for you. "The secret" they say, "is finding several helmets that fit you best, and then selecting the helmet with the highest SHARP rating".
The website even has cleaning advice for your helmet and a download-able widget that can be added to other websites, with an up-to-date rating scale as a point of reference. It's not surprising that the site receives between 60,000 and 80,000 visitors every month (correct on Nov 2013).
So, next time you have a look online or go out and about in search of a new motorcycle helmet, take a little look at the SHARP rating first. It may save your life!
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