Any professional motorcycle rider or race car driver will tell you about the importance of wearing a good helmet. The human skull is relatively strong, but it can easily suffer a lot of damage in an automobile accident. When racing events first began, safety wasn’t really a primary concern and drivers would often be seen wearing little more than soft caps. Today, technology has evolved to a point where the creation of helmets is a fascinating and carefully-calculated process. In order to protect drivers and riders in the case of accidents, each helmet needs to be developed in special ways.
A motorcycle rider has the risk of being flung from his bike in the event of a crash, meaning that the helmet needs to be capable of withstand extreme forces. Meanwhile, a race car driver is kept in place by a rigid protective cage. This creates its own set of requirements for the development of the helmet. On the outside, many different types of helmets may appear very similar. However, underneath the armored exteriors, countless forms of physical technology are at work to provide the proper degree of safety for the relevant racing discipline.
Every helmet has to pass a vigorous set of tests to ensure it meets the regulated safety standards. These standards are put in place by the Snell Memorial Foundation, a non-profit research organization working towards the development of the safest racing helmets possible. Every half decade, a new safety standard for motorcycle and automobile racing helmets is released. It’s worth pointing out that these safety standards aren’t actually obligatory for a helmet’s development. However, the Snell Memorial Foundation has a lot of influence on the racing community and almost every professional event requires the use of Snell-certified gear.
Believe it or not, there are a lot of different factors that go into the creation of individual helmets. All of them are designed to withstand heavy impacts, but the different elements of each racing discipline help to influence unique aspects of a helmet’s design. Race car helmets, for example, come with fire resistance as the driver is usually confined to the vehicle after a crash and needs some time to escape the vehicle. Meanwhile, motorcycle riders tend to require a larger field of vision as they tend to move their heads around to see behind or beside them. Therefore, motorcycle helmets often come with wider visors.
It’s interesting to decode the different ways in which these helmets are developed. The latest Snell tests will also involve “low-velocity testing”. This is because the latest helmets are being developed to withstand immense forces from high speed crashes, causing concerns that, in the case of a more minor impact, the helmet may actually do more harm than good to the driver or rider. This is just one more factor that will be of consideration for helmet manufacturers and goes to show that the vehicle safety industry is always striving for improvement.