Protect Your Head Part 2: Confusion About Snell M2010

If you saw my recent review of the Arai Profile, you know part of the reason I purchased a new helmet was to get one that was compliant with the new Snell M2010 safety standard.  Snell’s own website lists the Arai Profile as M2010 certified so I was confident that’s exactly what I was getting when I ordered it.  It wasn’t as clear cut as I had hoped.

The helmet I received was manufactured in December 2008, well before the Snell M2010 standard was published, so it has a Snell M2005 sticker inside.  Huh.  I wasn’t expecting a helmet that old, but then again I have no idea what the typical turnover time is for a helmet to get through the distribution channels.  Naturally my first thought was to find out whether or not my helmet was both M2005 and M2010 compliant.

Snell was widely criticized for their M2005 standard because it allowed higher peak acceleration of head forms (test heads) during impact testing than many experts thought were survivable.  In other words, manufacturers could produce what many considered unnecessarily stiff shells and still pass M2005.  Snell made significant changes with the M2010 standards, in part by lowering acceptable peak acceleration for head forms during impact testing and in effect lowering maximum shell stiffness.  What this has done is create a perception that since M2005 allowed relatively stiff shells, it may be rare to see a helmet that can pass both standards.  I contacted Arai Americas to ask them directly about my helmet and I got a direct answer:

Arai 4/23/2010
Ray, Arai has made their helmets to the same standards for years and we have always passed the snell certifications. Snell may have changed some of the standards but we did not change anything in our manufacturing and we passed 2005 and 2010 making our helmets the same as always. Thanks, Kathy

Nice!  Then I asked Snell why they didn’t clarify this on their website.  Sure the Arai Profile hasn’t changed, but why didn’t they point that out?  What if they had to make a completely new version just to meet M2010 standards?  This is actually what has happened with another stellar helmet, the Bell Star.

Bell’s top helmet was redesigned for 2010 to address a sizing issue while making other improvements, and the new version is clearly labeled as having met M2010 standards.  What’s frustrating to me is that Snell’s website doesn’t make any sort of distinction with regard to the Bell Star.  It just shows up on their compliance list but makes absolutely no mention of whether or not the 2009 and earlier model passes as well.

Due to a privacy notice that accompanied his e-mail, I can’t directly post what Stephen Johnson, General Manager of the Snell Memorial Foundation wrote me in response to my question.  What he basically said though is that Snell doesn’t track that information and it’s up to me to ask the manufacturer which version of their helmet they submitted to Snell for M2010 compliance.  I’m thankful Mr. Johnson replied, but I’m also surprised and annoyed by his answer.  I think Snell should readily track and provide this information to consumers.  How hard would it be for them to note that only the 2010 and newer Bell Star was submitted for M2010 compliance, instead of just saying the Bell Star is M2010 compliant with no accompanying information?  Based on Snell’s website, it’s very easy for any consumer to assume that the old Bell Star is M2010 compliant even though it may or may not be.  Yeah I can ask Bell, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect Snell to be more informative about their own standard.  This is not good for consumers, the very people Snell is trying to protect.

In any case, I lucked out and got a helmet that meets both Snell M2005 and M2010 standards.  Good thing too because I really like it.  Make sure you check with the manufacturer before you buy a helmet that you’re not 100% sure has passed Snell M2010.

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