Safety while riding a motorcycle is paramount, and selecting the right helmet plays a crucial role in ensuring it. Full-face helmets offer superior protection compared to open-face helmets, as they shield the jaw and face. Shockingly, over one-third of motorcycle crash injuries affect the chin, which remains vulnerable in open-face helmets. And so, it’s essential to ensure that your helmet meets these critical safety standards.
In this article, I will delve into the reasons why full-face helmets are safer than their open-face counterparts. Moreover, I will provide guidance on choosing the safest motorcycle helmet possible.
Helmet Model Category Shell Sizes Get Yours
AGV K1 S Best Sport/Racing 2: XS-MS, ML-XXL RevZilla | MotoSport | Amazon
KYPARA Best Cruiser/ATV 2: XSMD, XL-3XL Amazon
Yema Best Street/Urban 2: XS-MD, LG-3XL Amazon
Torc Modular Best Cruiser/Touring 3: XS/S, M/L, XL/2XL. Amazon
ILM Z501 Best Dual Sport/Street 2: XS-MS, ML-XXL Amazon
Bell Qualifier Best Urban/Commuter 3: XS/S, M/L, XL/2XL. RevZilla | MotoSport | Amazon
Scorpion EXO-R420 Best Sport/Touring 2: XS-MD, LG-3XL RevZilla | CycleGear | Amazon
Icon Airform Most Versatile 3: XS-SM, MD-LG, XL-3XL RevZilla | MotoSport | CycleGear
Sedici Strada II Best Bluetooth-Enabled 2: XS-MD, LG-3XL RevZilla | CycleGear | J&P Cycles
Reasons Full-Face Helmets Are Safer
According to German researcher Dietmar Otte, 34.6% of primary motorcycle crash impacts happen in the chin bar area and 10% in the face shield area.
Full-face helmets are safer than open-face helmets because they can protect your chin and face from being exposed, making you less vulnerable to severe injuries in an accident. Plus, they protect you better against small impacts from projectiles and insects like bees.
Some riders have reported stings and split lips from impacts that could have been avoided with a face shield, even when moving at a relatively slow speed.
Open-face helmets also tend to be more minimalistic, with less energy-absorbing material to buffer your impact. Additionally, they tend to have a less-than-ideal shape.
Full-face helmets are smooth and round so that they can slide better. Meanwhile, open-face helmets are more likely to be irregular and catch and snag on things in the event of a crash.
However, all helmets sold in the United States need to pass certain standards set by the Department of Transportation (DOT) if they’re to be worn on the road. These standards are based on safety criteria like impact testing, positional stability testing, and dynamic retention testing, among others.
Motorcycle Helmet Safety Standards
Several organizations test motorcycle helmets and give safety certifications, but the USDOT sets the most basic standards that helmets must legally meet. You’ll know that a helmet is DOT-certified for road use if it has a sticker on the back of the helmet reading “DOT.”
If a manufacturer in the U.S. sells motorcycle helmets marketed as road-ready that do not meet these requirements, they can face a fine of up to $5,000 per helmet.
DOT standards state that a road-ready motorcycle helmet must have the following:
- A one-inch (25.4-mm) polystyrene foam liner
- Sturdy chin straps
- Solid chin strap rivets
- No extensions further than 2/10 of an inch from the surface of the helmet (e.g., visor fasteners, spikes)
- Adherence to impact attenuation standards (measures the acceleration – maximum 400 G – of the head from inside the helmet when it’s dropped onto a flat, spherical anvil from a given height)
- Adherence to penetration resistance standards (piercing striker dropped from a certain height must not penetrate deeply enough to make contact with the head form)
- Effective retention strap that must not stretch or change form under a tensile load of 299 lb. (136 kg) held for 120 seconds
- Peripheral vision at least 105 degrees from the helmet midline
Snell Memorial Foundation Standard
The Snell Memorial Foundation requires that helmets meet the standards required by the DOT in addition to passing the following tests:
- Roll-Off Test: The helmet may shift but must not roll off the head form when dropped from a certain height connected to a wire rope
- Chin Bar Test: The downward deflection of the chin bar must meet maximum distance requirements when hit by a 5 kg (11 lb.) weight
- Face Shield Penetration Test: The face shield must endure shots from an air rifle sent at 310 mph without penetration
Other Safety Standards
Other safety standards for motorcycle helmets include the following:
- European Standard 22/05: Similar to DOT and Snell testing, with an additional test for shell rigidity
- European BSI 6658-85 Type A: Similar to Snell testing, with additional testing for chin strap slippage, abrasion testing, and retention
- SHARP: Used only in the U.K., measures impact protection and gives a star rating between 1 and 5 rather than a pass/fail metric
Best Full-Face Helmets Today
The best and safest motorcycle helmets are new, well-cared for, and meet DOT and Snell Memorial Foundation standards. These include full-face helmets that are less than five years old and well-cared for, without cracks.
The following are recommendations for safe, full-face motorcycle helmets.
The AGV K6 is a great all-around helmet good for everyday street riding, track days are road racing. Priced around $500 this full-face helmet features four different shell sizes, most of which weigh less than 3 pounds. This AGV model features an EPS liner made of five different densities for maximum shock absorption. The K-6 comes with one Pinlock insert and a cloth helmet bag.
The AGV K-6 is very comfortable and quiet due to its plush liner. The AGV K6 has a very aerodynamic shape and comes in a wide range of colors and graphics. It has a high-quality face shield with an excellent ratchet mechanism and is easy to change. The AGV K6 is certified to the European ECE standard and has been tested to the British SHARP program and rated five stars.
The Shoei X-Fourteen has a 5/5 rating from SHARP and is Snell-certified, meaning it goes beyond legal safety requirements to provide an even more secure riding experience. It has a multi-density shock-absorbing liner and comes in four sizes to optimize fit, essential for safety.
This helmet also has great ventilation, ideal for staying cool in hot weather. However, it is less effective at reducing noise than other helmets, so you may need to wear earplugs while riding with this helmet to protect your hearing.
The manufacturer also produces accessories to enhance the performance of this helmet, like an anti-fog insert to prevent your face shield from fogging up and a photochromatic visor that adjusts the level of sun shading in the shield according to how sunny it is outside.
This helmet meets the Snell Memorial Foundation standards for safety, has a 5/5 SHARP rating, and meets DOT requirements. The shell is made from multi-layered fiberglass and reinforced with a polystyrene liner for good shock absorption. It’s layered with an antimicrobial liner to make the helmet more sanitary and more long-lasting.
The Arai Signet-X has a quick-removal system that makes it easy to remove the helmet in the event of an emergency without further damaging the spine. It also comes with an anti-fog insert to ensure that you have the best visibility and riding experience without purchasing additional accessories.
The Shoei RF-SR has top ratings for safety, earning a 5/5 SHARP rating and meeting the standards set by the Snell Memorial Foundation and the DOT. I.T. has a dual liner that optimizes both impact absorption and ventilation, and it comes in 4 different shell sizes and 6 liner sizes to get a perfect fit.
This helmet also has an emergency release system to prevent spinal damage if you need to remove the helmet in an emergency.
The Shoei RF-SR has a face shield locking system that is secure, windproof, and waterproof, and it comes with fog-resistant inserts to ensure high visibility and comfort while riding.
Conclusion: How Much Safer Is a Full-Face Helmet?
Having the right motorcycle helmet is key to safety. Overall, full-face helmets are much safer than open-face helmets because they prevent chin and face injuries. You should make sure that whatever helmet you buy meets the requirements of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Ideally, your helmet should also meet the standards of the Snell Memorial Foundation.
I've diligently categorized my motorcycle gear recommendations into all available categories, with the aim of providing you with a comprehensive analysis that showcases the absolute best options for all your needs. These items are the culmination of in-depth research, extensive testing, and personal use throughout my vast experience of 50+ years in the world of motorcycling. Besides being a passionate rider, I've held leadership positions and offered consultancy services to reputable companies in over 25 countries. To See Top Picks and the Best Prices & Places to Buy: Click Here!
Information for this article was partially sourced and researched from the following authoritative government, educational, corporate, and non-profit organizations: