Background on the CPSC Standard
On February 1, 1999, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) voted unanimously to issue a new federal safety standard for bike helmets. This provided, for the first time, one uniform mandatory safety standard that all bike helmets must meet. The standard ensures that bike helmets will adequately protect the wearer's head and that chin straps will be strong enough to prevent the helmet from coming off in a crash, collision, or fall. In addition, the new standard required that helmets intended for children up to age five cover more of the head to provide added protection to the more fragile areas of a young child's skull.
Elements of the CPSC Testing Regime
In brief, during CPSC's testing process, helmets are tested to ensure that:
- They do not block the rider's vision
- They do not come off when the rider falls
- The straps do not stretch enough to let the helmet come off in an accident
- The helmet significantly reduces the force to the rider's head when the helmet hits a hard surface
Tests are performed on a minimum of eight helmets of each size and model. Helmets must meet all of the requirements of the regulation when tested, both with and without any attachments that the manufacturer offers. During CPSC's testing process, the helmets are mounted on a form or casting (called a "headform" that simulates the rider's head. In addition, four to 24 hours before testing, the helmet samples are exposed to conditions that relate to the different types of environments helmets may encounter (e.g., heat, cold, water). The helmets are then dropped onto both flat and hemispherical anvils and the rate of peak acceleration of each impact is recorded. A helmet fails the test if any of the samples tested shows a peak acceleration of more than 300 g.
How Do You Know a Helmet Meets the CPSC Safety Standard?
Evidence is in the mandatory sticker, required by the CPSC, that will appear on the inside of every helmet that meets the CPSC safety standard for bicycle helmets. See the photo on the right for an example of this sticker!