Snell Memorial Foundation
The Snell Memorial Foundation (SMF) is a not-for-profit organization created to provide a high quality standard of safety for helmets. Founded in 1957, SMF is named after William "Pete" Snell, a popular sports car
Sports car
A sports car is a small, usually two seat, two door automobile designed for high speed driving and maneuverability....

 racer who died in 1956 of head injuries he received when the racing helmet he wore failed to protect his head. A group of friends, scientists, physicians, and others joined together to create a group that would promote research and education as well as test and develop standards to improve the effectiveness of helmets.

Current standards

  • B-95 Bicycle helmet
    Bicycle helmet
    A bicycle helmet is a helmet intended to be worn while riding a bicycle. They are designed to attenuate impacts to the skull of a cyclist in falls while minimizing side effects such as interference with peripheral vision...

  • B-95C Children's bicycle helmets
  • E2001 Equestrian helmet
    Equestrianism more often known as riding, horseback riding or horse riding refers to the skill of riding, driving, or vaulting with horses...

  • H2000 Harness racing
    Harness racing
    Harness racing is a form of horse racing in which the horses race at a specific gait . They usually pull a two-wheeled cart called a sulky, although racing under saddle is also conducted in Europe.-Breeds:...

  • L-98 Moped
    Mopeds are a type of low-powered motorcycle designed to provide economical and relatively safe transport with minimal licensing requirements.Mopeds were once all equipped with bicycle-like pedals , but moped has been increasingly applied by governments to vehicles without pedals, based on their...

    s and Low Powered Vehicles
  • M2005 or M2010 Motorcycle helmet
    Motorcycle helmet
    A motorcycle helmet is a type of protective headgear used by motorcycle riders. The primary goal of a motorcycle helmet is motorcycle safety - to protect the rider's head during impact, thus preventing or reducing head injury or saving the rider's life...

  • N-94 Undefined or general use helmets used in sports and industry
  • RS-98 Recreational Skiing & Snowboarding helmet
    Ski helmet
    A ski helmet or snowboard helmet is a protective head covering specifically designed and constructed for wintersports, often insulated against cold weather. Design includes the ability to withstand multiple impacts. This protective gear comes in different styles and types - full shell, short...

  • SA2005 Auto racing
    Auto racing
    Auto racing is a motorsport involving the racing of cars for competition. It is one of the world's most watched televised sports.-The beginning of racing:...

  • K2005 Kart racing
    Kart racing
    Kart racing or karting is a variant of open-wheel motorsport with small, open, four-wheeled vehicles called karts, go-karts, or gearbox/shifter karts depending on the design. They are usually raced on scaled-down circuits...

     helmets (same as SA without the need for fire retardant
    Fire retardant
    A fire retardant is a substance other than water that reduces flammability of fuels or delays their combustion. This typically refers to chemical retardants but may also include substances that work by physical action, such as cooling the fuels; examples of these include fire-fighting foams and...


Portable Document Format
Portable Document Format is an open standard for document exchange. This file format, created by Adobe Systems in 1993, is used for representing documents in a manner independent of application software, hardware, and operating systems....

 files of every Snell standard are available on the Snell website.


To qualify for SMF certification, the helmet must pass a series of tests. The tests are determined depending on the application and the requirements of the standard.


Snell Standards significantly surpass those set by the U.S. Department of Transportation
United States Department of Transportation
The United States Department of Transportation is a federal Cabinet department of the United States government concerned with transportation. It was established by an act of Congress on October 15, 1966, and began operation on April 1, 1967...

 (DOT), the American National Standards Institute
American National Standards Institute
The American National Standards Institute is a private non-profit organization that oversees the development of voluntary consensus standards for products, services, processes, systems, and personnel in the United States. The organization also coordinates U.S. standards with international...

 (ANSI), ASTM International
ASTM International
ASTM International, known until 2001 as the American Society for Testing and Materials , is an international standards organization that develops and publishes voluntary consensus technical standards for a wide range of materials, products, systems, and services...

 (ASTM) and the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission's 16 CFR Part 1203.

Snell Standards are updated about every five years. These updates are based on new scientific research and improved, available manufacturing technologies. As such, and in addition to other factors such as typical use wear and tear, Snell recommends that helmets be replaced approximately every five years to ensure good safety.


In 2005, Motorcyclist magazine wrote an in-depth article discussing helmet testing and safety. The article included criticism of SMF standards by prominent head injury and helmet design experts, including Dr. Harry Hurt, author of the Hurt Report
Hurt Report
The Hurt Report was a motorcycle safety study conducted in the United States, initiated in 1976 and published in 1981. The report is named after its primary author, Professor Harry Hurt.Noted motorcycle journalist David L...

, who described the Snell standards as "a little bit excessive," and Dr Jim Newman, former head of SMF, who characterized the then-current SMF standard as a "marketing gimmick." The article reported that a softer absorption material would transfer less g force
G force
The g-force associated with an object is its acceleration relative to free-fall.It may also refer to:* G-Force , a 2009 film by Disney** G-Force , a 2009 video game based on the film...

to the head in the most common motorcycle accidents than the stiffer absorption material required in Snell-Certified helmets. SMF released a technical critique and rebuttal to the article which is available at their website. In September 2009, New York Times published a follow-up article which cited the 2005 Motorcyclist article; SMF rebutted it as well. SMF's 2010 standard for motorcycle helmets now conforms with one of the magazine's criticisms, that a larger head will also be a heavier head.
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