What is ECE 22.05 (concerning the approval of protective crash helmets)?
Think of it like DOT certification but for Europe.
The ECE stands for Economic Commission for Europe and the 22 refers to Regulation No.22. The 05 part refers to a specific amendment to the regulation (yawn!). Essentially, they’re rules put in place to make sure crash helmets for sale in Europe protect the head adequately in an accident – and include info. on the tests each helmet must pass to prove they do so. The regs also cover the performance of face shields.
ECE 22.05 is the most widely respected and used regulation in the world and is endorsed and used by many countries outside Europe too: as of Nov 2015, that includes Australia.
A quick note on UNECE 22.06
The ECE 22.05 standard is being superceded in 2024 when the new ECE 22.06 regulation comes into force. Till then, you’ll see a mixture of old 22.05 helmets and newer 22.06 on the market. Read more about ECE 22.06 here.
Why do they need Regulation No.22?
The rules are there to make sure if you’re buying a crash helmet to protect you on a motorcycle, then you know the helmet’s giving you at least a minimum level of protection. If there aren’t standards there, manufacturers have a tendency to push out any old tin bowl with a strap on it and claim it’ll save you from headbutting lamp posts, and you won’t have a clue if they’re telling you the truth or not until it’s too late. Regulation 22 tells manufacturers what they have to do in order to produce an effective motorcycle crash helmet and how to prove they’ve complied with the regulations (through testing and labelling). It also gives us buyers/wearers/crashers confidence we’re buying a helmet that offers us at least some protection.
Where can I read about Regulation No. 22?
Funny you should ask. It’s available as a pdf on the UNECE (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe) website. Grab it by clicking this link.
So how do they test the helmets?
They test helmets in a few funky ways under a few even funkier conditions. These include testing for initial impact, rigidity, friction, chin strap strength and ‘retention’ (making sure the helmet stays in position during impact). But while testing for these, they also subject the lids to solvents (!), low and high temperatures, ultraviolet and moisture. Testing is also supposed to be carried out using the helmet size which is determined to be weakest.
Most of that is similar to DOT however ECE testing has to be performed on all helmets for sale within the Eurozone whereas DOT is a self-certification scheme where manufacturers have to say their helmet will pass DOT – and they can then go on sale, with the OVSC carrying out sample testing.
There are separate tests for shields too, testing for scratch resistance, refraction, light transmission and field of vision.
The regs also stipulate what each helmet is and isn’t tested to provide, such as no chin protection for open faced helmets. It also shows how each helmet and shield should be labelled. For example if a helmet’s approved under regulation 22 it displays a capital E in a circle followed by a number that represents each country (see the pic above). This is followed by a series of other numbers and letters representing specifics of the type approval, approval number and production serial number.
While Regulation 22 ensures motorcycle crash helmets are fit for purpose (and labelled as such) it’s important to realise that this is only one step towards you being able to buy and use a helmet that will protect you in an accident. Crash helmets are always compromised to some extent (what’s effective in a single high speed impact isn’t the same as what’s effective in an impact that has multiple slower speed impacts and includes lots of abrasion for example). It’s also probably true to say that where there’s a helmet testing procedure to be taken (and passed) then a manufacturer’s focus tends to prioritise the passing of the test over other more practical (and effective) ways to protect the rider’s head. But then, that’s one of the drawbacks of imposing any test and arguably a drawback worth risking.
Also, one of the most important factors in reducing head injury is making sure your helmet fits properly (so see our helmet fitting guide). Finally, SHARP testing and Snell testing supplement DOT certification and the ECE 22.05 testing procedure as they find there’s a wide range in how well crash helmets perform even amongst those which pass either regulation, and which is why we focus on helmets that are DOT/ECE 22.05 approved and are Snell certified/score the highest ratings in the SHARP tests.
What about DOT AND ECE Certified Helmets?
Some helmets on sale say they are both DOT certified for the US as well as ECE certified for sale in Europe. But sometimes helmets can be advertised as both simply because the European version of that helmet has passed ECE while the US version complies with DOT. In reality, unless a helmet shows the correct stickers or markings covering both standards, it’s not dual certified.
So what if a DOT helmet over here’s also available in Europe? Surely if it’s the same helmet I can wear my DOT helmet over there?
It’s a bit of a grey area because if it went to court and you could prove to a judge that they’re identical helmets, you might well be OK.
But the problem lies with the fact that if you got pulled over by the police, they could look at your helmet and expect to see the correct DOT stickers and ECE tags and stickers in/on your helmet. And if it hasn’t got them, then that officially means you’re not wearing a legal helmet.
And often while helmets may have the same name and look the same in different countries, they can actually have slight differences in manufacture and construction – especially if they want to pass Snell tests which can require a stiffer helmet shell.
So, if you’re thinking of taking your DOT helmet abroad with you believing it’s DOT and ECE, then you need to first check it has the correct certification and tags to show both standards have been passed on that specific helmet.
OK the chances are that most police won’t ever check, but if you stumble across a particularly officious police officer (and ain’t that always the way?!) then you could conceivably end up with a fine and a confiscated helmet.
For more information on pretty well everything to do with crash helmets, see our motorcycle crash helmets guides pages.