Motorcyclists are vulnerable road users, and wearing safety equipment is strongly recommended to ensure optimum protection. When doing their checks, the police regularly come across bikers wearing helmets that are either very old or no longer up to the current safety standard, i.e. ECE 22-05. But what is this standard exactly, and how do I check to see if my helmet is actually compliant?
The ECE R22 European test standard determines what counts as “qualified head protection”. Since 2006, all motorcyclists travelling on the public highway must wear a motorcycle helmet that has passed an ECE R22 directive compliance test.
Safety standard for motorcycle helmets
The ECE R22 (Economic Commission Europe) European test standard sets the minimum requirements for protective helmets used on the public highway. Here are a number of examples of criteria that have to be met (non-exhaustive list):
- Size and shape of the shock absorbing shell
- Chemical resistance of the outer shell
- Shock absorption values at individual points in a drop test
- Size of field of vision
The following criteria also need to be met according to the ECE 05 standard:
Lowering the threshold value by 10 percentage points in the case of an accident, the HIC (Head Injury Criterion) and the deceleration of the head, which increases the safety factor in the case of a collision between the object and the head. The chin area is checked against criteria such as impact and absorption. Other test criteria include measuring the rotational acceleration of the outer shell, the chinstrap mechanism, application of a film over the ECE label and 50% maximum visor tint.
The ECE label is either on the helmet padding or chinstrap. If you’re looking for the ECE designation, it’s indicated by the E on the label. The letter is followed by the 22 test number, which tells you the current test version 22-05. The consecutive numbering shows that there have been constant changes to the test procedure. Given that motorcycle helmet safety features and technology are always improving, test procedures obviously have to be adapted too.
The ECE mark expires if incorrect modifications have been made to the motorcycle helmet and/or if damage has removed the protective effect. You must therefore only use original replacement parts and must not make any modifications to the motorcycle helmet yourself, if you are not permitted to do so according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Some manufacturers put helmets with the R22 mark and no suffixes into circulation. They are not approved! The mark must always feature an E in a circle and the name of the test centre.
Use of ECE-approved motorcycle helmets in non-EU countries:
All helmets approved in Luxembourg need to pass the ECE test. They can only be used in European countries where the ECE test standard is valid. Different regulations apply to motorcycle helmets in North America (United States and Canada), so you cannot claim damages in an accident. You therefore need to find out the specific laws for motorcycle helmets in the specific country to avoid being fined for a non-approved protective helmet.
What do the police say?
Helmets meeting the 04 standard and older don’t offer the same level of protection as an up-to-date helmet. The law says that wearing these helmets isn’t prohibited, but the police strongly advise people not to use them on the public highway.
Offences are considered as “serious contraventions” and incur a fine of €145 and a loss of 2 points on your driving licence.
ECE approval mark:
1. States the test centre. The numbering indicates the country in which the motorcycle helmet was tested (1 = Germany; 2 = France; 3 = Italy; 13 = Luxembourg)
2. ECE standard
3. Version number
4. Approval number
5. The P mark indicates that the protection test has been passed
6. The PN/J symbol indicates there is no chin protection (e.g., open-face helmet)
7. 74 is a manufacturer’s batch number