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FAQs about Snell and Helmets


Q1: Who/What is Snell?

          [INLINE] William "Pete" Snell was an amateur auto racer. He
          died needlessly in a racing event in 1956 when his then
          state-of- the-art helmet failed utterly to protect him. His
          friends, including Dr. George Snively, formed the Snell
          Memorial Foundation to remember Pete Snell and to encourage the
          development and use of truly protective helmets.

Q2: Why wear helmets?

          Auto racing, bicycling and motorcycling all impose risks of
          head injury leading to death or permanent disability. Helmets
          are the single most effective means of preventing these

Q3: Why wear Snell-certified helmets?

          The protective capability of a particular helmet is difficult
          to measure. One can quickly judge a helmet for style and price,
          and, with only a little effort, for fit and comfort as well.
          But who knows what that helmet can do when someone's skill,
          experience and every other precaution have failed, when his
          helmet's the only thing between his head and a violent
          collision. The Snell Foundation knows. We destroy thousands of
          helmets every year to find out. Snell Certification is our
          assurance that a helmet has measured up to the highest
          standards for protective performance time and again.

Q4: Why Snell certification and not some other assurance?

          [INLINE] Snell Standards are the most demanding. They are set
          to levels of protective performance that only the best, most
          protective headgear will meet. But Snell Certification is more
          than high Standards, it is testing. Helmets must first pass
          Snell Certification testing by Snell technicians in Snell labs
          to qualify for our programs. Then samples of these helmets
          acquired directly from retailers and distributors must continue
          to pass in order to remain in our programs. Snell Certification
          is your best assurance that your helmet will perform its most
          important function: save your life when all your judgement,
          skill and luck have failed to keep you from harm.

Q5: How much does Snell cost and who pays?

          Snell bills the manufacturer for testing, the acquisition of
          random samples and for each Snell Certification Label that goes
          into a certified helmet. However, these costs, along with every
          other production cost, insurance premium and sales tax get
          passed along to you the consumer. Approximate Snell Program
          charges per helmet are listed in the following table:
          Snell Program Charges Certification Test Random Sample Test
          Snell Label Approx Per Helmet Charges
          SA-95 Racing $875 $120 $1.00 $1.56
          M-95 Motorcycle $820 $120 $0.40 $0.64
          B-95 & N-94 Bicycle & Multisports $610 $120 $0.30 $0.43

Q6: Why Snell-certified helmets cost more?

          Snell Certified helmets are available in almost every price
          range. Other features such as style and comfort are much more
          important in determining helmet price. However, building
          protective performance into a helmet does cost money. The costs
          are in the design and development, the materials and, most of
          all, in quality control. Snell Certification is your best
          assurance that the manufacturer has made, and continues to
          make, this investment in your safety.

Q7: What does Snell do with the money?

          The Foundation spends the biggest part of its income on the
          Certification Programs. There are rents and maintenance on the
          test facilities in the UK and California, salaries for the test
          technicians and other employees, equipment repair and
          replacement, and all the other expenses associated with any
          non-profit effort. The rest goes to research and education.

Q8: What are the differences between SA Standard and M Standard?

[INLINE] SA Standard was designed for auto racing while M Standard was for motorcycling. There are three major differences between them: (1) SA standard requires flammability test while M standard does not; (2) SA standard allows narrower visual field than M standard; (3) SA standard has rollbar impact test while M standard does not.

Q9: How a helmet works?
Your helmet is normally comprised of three elements: outer shell, crushable liner, and chin strap. The outer shell, when present, may add load-spreading capacity and prevent objects from penetrating the helmet. The liner, usually made of EPS, absorbs the energy of an impact. The chin strap, when properly buckled and adjusted, can help the helmet remain in position during a crash.

Q10: Why replace helmet every five years? The five year replacement recommendation is a consensus position from both the helmet manufacturers and the Snell Foundation. Outgassing of glues which can dissolve liner material, general liner detoriation as a function of hair oils, and body fluids, and normal "wear and tear" all contribute to helmet degradation. Additionally, experience indicates there will be a noticable improvement in the protective characteristic of helmets over a five year period. Thus, the recommendation for five year helmet replacement is a judgement call stemming from prudent safety philosophy.

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