William Snell was an amateur automobile racer who passed away in 1956 during a racing accident. According to the Snell Memorial Foundation, his death was due to the failure of his helmet to protect him. In memory of William Snell, the Snell Memorial Foundation was formed to improve helmet design and capabilities, as well as to provide users a way to ensure helmets meet specific safety standards. Each year Snell tests and destroys thousands of helmets during the certification process. The two common Snell certifications are SA and M. The SA certification is directed toward auto racing safety concerns while the M certification is for motorcycle helmet safety. The SA certification requires flammability and roll bar impact tests, while the M certification does not. Helmets with an M certification do have a wider visual field than SA. For helmets that have either of these Snell certifications, a label is affixed somewhere on the inside of the helmet. I have seen some manufacturer put a “Snell” label which is affixed to the outside rear of the helmet, but be forewarned this is not the certification sticker.
On some helmets, it can require that you check under the padding flaps that can easily be moved or on the chinstrap. A word of warning: Just because a helmet has a sticker on the back of the helmet with a Snell rating does not mean it is truly certified. Look for the official Snell rating sticker with the associated year’s rating. When buying a new helmet, learn what is the most recent Snell certification date available. Some companies will sell a Snell-rated helmet that just became outdated by a newer certification, or is very soon to become outdated. Snell recommends that helmets be replaced every five years, and many racing sanctions adhere to this philosophy as well. Additional information about Snell ratings and the Foundation can be found at www.smf.org.