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ATV Helmet Safety Certifications

ATV Helmet Safety Certifications

An all-terrain vehicle is a fun way to experience some adrenaline over otherwise tough to conquer terrains. While this type of vehicle is definitely a lot of fun to ride, there are still a few safety precautions you need to take. A helmet is an important part of your gear since head injuries account for a lot of ATV related injuries. How do you know which one to get when there are so many different ATV helmet safety certifications? Let’s take a closer look at this matter so you can make the right call.

When looking at ATV helmet safety certifications, there are three to choose from on the market. There are often questions about which one is the best of the three, but the truth is that they are all adequate in terms of safety. The main goal of helmet shopping should be to get one of these three ATV helmet safety certifications. As long as you have a helmet with either DOT, Snell, or ECE safety standards, you are good to go. You want to avoid any helmet that doesn’t carry one of these three standards since it hasn’t been thoroughly tested and leaves you vulnerable to injuries even with the helmet.


Representing the Department of Transportation, DOT is a certification found only on North American helmets. The standards are outlined by the Department’s standard of FMVSS 218 put forth by the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard #218. This set of guidelines actually dictates the safety standards for all on-road helmets in America.

A helmet which is certified as DOT tested has been rigidly tested before receiving this official safety certification. When a helmet company looks to receive this standard on their helmet, they send in one helmet of the model to have it tested by a certified testing facility. They do not have every single helmet tested but rather one model helmet which they will then produce the other helmets in accordance to in an effort to help ensure it meets DOT standards.

It is important to note that this doesn’t mean every single helmet with a DOT logo has been tested individually which is a common misconception. Before you freak out that your helmet may not be that safe if you choose DOT, let’s clear up a few things. While every helmet isn’t tested individually, they are still manufactured to exactly mimic the one model helmet which was certified. Furthermore, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) randomly selects versions of the certified helmets to test them for compliance. Why should this give you confidence even though your individual helmet wasn’t tested? Because the NHTSA issues a hefty fine for helmets not in compliance of their DOT certification of up to thousands of dollars per helmet in the company. This costly fine isn’t worth it to any company so they take great care to ensure all of their helmets, whether individually tested or not, meet the DOT logo once they obtain it.

It is worth noting that there are imposters who try to slap a DOT logo on their helmet when it wasn’t actually certified by DOT. The NHTSA now requires that a DOT logo carries the following information on the sticker:

  • Name of manufacturer
  • Model number or model name
  • “DOT” below the manufacturer name
  • “FMVSS 218” directly below “DOT”
  • “Certified” below FMVSS 218

When looking for a DOT helmet, check that these words are in this order to avoid buying a fake. This is your life after all, and you want to make sure you are in good hands.


Another popular safety certification in helmets is Snell. This logo is representative of the Snell Memorial Foundation M2010 helmet standard. Unlike DOT, which is regulated by government standards, Snell is a non-profit organization founded in 1957 and not a requirement for helmets. Snell is an outside testing company which helps manufacturers fine-tune their models to meet certain safety standards during the initial product development stage of the helmet. If a helmet passes the safety standards set out by Snell during developmental stages, the manufacturer must maintain those same build qualities to get the Snell logo on the finished product. While Snell is not mandatory like DOT, they both test for similar things. You definitely want a DOT helmet, but a DOT helmet with the additional Snell certification is always a good sign in terms of safety and quality.

It should be noted that Snell certified helmets come in different codes so you want to check this before buying one for your ATV riding needs. These are the most common Snell codes:

  • M for Motorcycle
  • SA for Special Application
  • SAH for Special Application, specifically Frontal Head Restraint System
  • K for Karting
  • CMR for Children’s Motorsports Restricted
  • CMS for Children’s Motorsports Standard

ECE 22.05

The final and less common safety certification you may run across is the ECE 22.05 safety certification. This stands for Economic Commission for Europe and was created in 1958 as part of an agreement with the United Nations. The ECE standard is similar to the DOT testing standards and both test for the same safety concerns. The only major difference between the two is that ECE tests the rigidity of the helmet rather than the puncture resistance of the DOT test. The ECE is not a requirement like the DOT in North America, but it is still something riders come across. The big difference in ECE versus DOT is that ECE requires a batch sample of the helmets once they are in production to certify they still meet the standards of safety whereas DOT tests at random postproduction.