Frequently asked questions
Q. How long do helmets last and when should they be replaced?
This is difficult to answer as it depends greatly on the amount of use and storage. In the first instance, guidance from the manufacturer should be followed but in the absence of this information, riders should be looking to replace a helmet that has been subject to regular use after 3 to 5 years. We have consulted with our industry experts and they are in agreement that this is appropriate generic advice.
Q. Do all helmets rated by SHARP meet the minimum regulatory requirements?
Yes. SHARP will only assess helmets that meet the regulatory requirements applying to helmets that are offered for sale in the UK (i.e. an approval to UN-ECE Regulation 22.05 or to British Standard 6658:1985).
Q. How is SHARP funded?
The Department for Transport funds the purchase and testing of helmets to ensure that SHARP remains independent and impartial.
Q. I have a helmet that scored a low star rating. Has it failed?
No. All helmets that are rated by SHARP meet at least one of the regulatory standards which means they offer at least a minimum level of protection in the event of an accident. However, as our tests show, some helmets exceed the minimum impact protection requirements by a much greater margin than others.
Q. Is providing this safety information expected to save lives?
Motorcyclists represent one of the most vulnerable road user groups and typically represent 1% of traffic but 19% of fatalities each year in the UK. Significantly, around 80% of all motorcyclist fatalities and 70% of those with serious injuries, sustain head injuries. Research in 2007 estimated that up to 50 lives could be saved each year if all motorcyclists were to wear helmets scoring highly in the SHARP assessment.
Q. What is SHARP?
The Safety Helmet Assessment and Rating Programme (SHARP) is a consumer information initiative that was launched by the Department for Transport in 2007 following research that revealed real differences in the safety performance of motorcycle helmets available in the UK.
SHARP’s objective is to provide:
• clear advice on how to select a helmet that fits correctly and is comfortable, and secondly
• consumers with clear, impartial and objective information about the relative safety of motorcycle helmets available to riders in the UK.
Q. What should I do if I have a low rated helmet?
All helmets that are rated provide the minimum level of safety protection required by law so your helmet is not unsafe. Remember, the most important aspect of a helmet is that it provides the right fit for you. It’s not necessarily the highest SHARP rated helmet that will be the best for you if it doesn’t fit correctly. When you are choosing your next helmet, try on as many as you can to find a selection that fit and are comfortable and then consider their SHARP safety rating to make the safest possible choice.
Q. Why was SHARP introduced?
Motorcyclists represent one of the most vulnerable road user groups. Typically in the UK they represent 1% of traffic but 19% of the casualties. Significantly, around 80% of all motorcyclist fatalities and 70% of those with serious injuries, sustain head injuries. Research also shows that, statistically, head impacts are distributed uniformly around the circumference of the helmet.
Research for the Department revealed significant differences in the degree of impact protection available from the vast range of helmets retailed in the UK. This formative research also indicated that the safety potential of a helmet is not necessarily reflected in the price that the consumer will pay.
Whilst all helmets that are sold or worn legally in the UK must meet minimum safety standards (e.g. approval to UN ECE Regulation 22.05), it was clear that some helmets exceed the minimum safety requirements to a much greater extent than others.
Research also highlighted that helmet detachment can occur during the accident sequence with reports indicating a frequency varying from 10% to 14% of casualties.
Q. Do all helmets need to be rated by SHARP?
No. SHARP is not intended to be a replacement for, or competitor to, the regulatory requirements for helmets. Rather, SHARP is a consumer information programme that provides detail about the performance of a helmet which cannot be assessed at the point of sale.
Q. How is the safety information provided?
Calculation of the safety rating is complex so to enable motorcyclists to quickly and easily determine those helmets likely to offer the highest level of protection, the ratings are expressed as a simple star rating with 5‐stars being the highest and 1‐star the lowest; the more SHARP stars a helmet has, the better the protection it can give.
Q. I have a question regarding SHARP. Who should I contact?
If you have any questions regarding SHARP or want to provide feedback regarding any aspect of the scheme, please e-mail us at t email@example.com or tweet us at @SHARPgovuk.
However, if you have a media query or you’re a journalist please contact the Department for Transport’s press office: www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-transport/about/media...
Q. How are the helmet models selected for inclusion within the programme?
It is not possible for SHARP to test every new helmet that comes onto the UK market and helmet models are selected by using a range of criteria, including market information and requests from the trade or individual members of the public.
Q. How can I request a particular model is rated by SHARP?
You can e-mail requests to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet us at @SHARPgovuk
Q. Does SHARP assess how much protection the lower face cover offers?
No. SHARP makes no assessment in this area. We believe the mandatory chin bar assessment of the British Standard or UN-ECE Regulation 22.05 are adequate – we have no measure by which we can objectively rate their safety beyond compliance with these requirements. We do however check each helmet that we assess to ensure that these tests have been conducted, given that Regulation 22.05 approvals can be given to a full-face helmet even when the chin bar has not been shown to satisfy the specific chin bar requirements. When we find this case we indicate it on our website by use of a helmet symbol having a red cross over the chin bar.
Q. Does the SHARP assessment include a penetration test?
No. While some standards assess the helmet’s ability to withstand this type of impact we have concentrated on the helmet’s energy management as severe shock to the brain is a more common cause of injury. The research underpinning SHARP, COST 327 (the most comprehensive study of motorcycle crashes ever conducted in Europe) found penetration to be a very infrequent cause of injury and therefore made no recommendation for such an assessment.
Q. Is the safety rating the only thing to consider when buying a new helmet?
No. It is important that a helmet fits well if it is to provide its best protection - studies estimate that between 10 and 14% of fatal injuries occur when the helmet comes off in an accident. This is why the SHARP website includes a video that offers advice on helmet selection. Comfort is also important and should be considered when making a purchase. An uncomfortable helmet can distract you when riding and a poor fitting helmet may offer reduced protection in the event of an accident. The safety rating is a third criterion that can help make this important purchasing decision. Other factors may influence the purchaser but SHARP offers no opinion on what are largely subjective assessments.
Q. SHARP appears to be mainly concerned with linear impacts, isn’t rotational acceleration also very important?
Yes. SHARP includes a test for rotational acceleration in the same way that regulation does. Detailed information about these tests and how they relate to real world road accidents can be found at: http://www.trl.co.uk/online_store/reports_publications/trl_reports/cat_v...
Q. Why do you only strike helmets once in each impact site when some standards strike the same site twice?
We do not have any evidence to suggest that in a motorcycle accident helmets suffer repeated impacts on the same site. We do see that helmets can receive multiple impacts and that is why the SHARP assessment does involve more than one impact on a single helmet but at different points.
Q. Why does SHARP carry out impact tests at specific points on a helmet?
To ensure that we accurately assess helmet performance, it is important that our impact conditions are representative of real world accidents. The in depth accident investigations carried out by COST 327 confirmed a direct correlation between helmet damage location and head injury. It considered the UN-ECE Regulation 22.05 points to be appropriate and SHARP therefore uses the same impact points – to the front, rear, crown, left and right sides.
In addition to this however, for every helmet model that is rated a sample is dismantled to check whether there is any localised reinforcement that could lead to an inappropriately high rating. If this is considered likely, SHARP retains the right to test at any other point on the helmet (within the extent of protection specified in Annex 4 to UN-ECE Regulation 22.05).
Q. How does SHARP evaluate the performance of the lower face cover locking mechanism of flip front helmets?
During each of our 30 linear impact tests we note whether the lower face cover has unlatched or unlocked during the impact. The number of times the faceguard remains fully locked after each of the linear impacts is expressed as a percentage for the latch rating. For example, if the lower face cover stayed completely shut in every one of the thirty impacts the score would be 100% but if it should open on nine occasions, the score would be 70%. We are not currently able to apply an objective measure to the safety effect of a failure of the chin bar locking mechanism and therefore we do not factor this into the safety (star) rating.
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