Standards differ in many ways from country to country and for different applications. There are also notable differences in the enforcement of safety standards. In some countries, standards compliance is overseen and controlled by government agencies. In others, compliance is left up to the manufacturer, or distributor of the products. The differences in standards can be confusing to helmet buyers. In an effort to help consumers make more informed choices about the headgear they are buying, we have created some pages of standards comparisons for bicycle helmets, motorcycle helmets and skiing helmets.
So why so many different helmets and standards? Well, all activities are not created equal. You may think that activities like bicycling and skateboarding are pretty much the same, wheeled, non-motorized vehicles that are used on paved surfaces. In some ways they are alike but, they also differ in some important aspects. Studies have demonstrated that the head impacts that cyclists receive are more frequently located on the front third of the helmet down near the lower edge. This is likely a result of the dynamics of how people ride and the design of bicycles. A rider who is about to be involved in an incident is also likely to be using their hands and arms to try to maneuver the bike rather than for the natural act of protecting their head and face.
Skateboarders generally have less maneuvering capability and thus less active control, except for perhaps those who have an expertise in the activity. Unlike bicyclists, skateboarders and those who rollerblade, rollerskate and the like are more likely to fall backwards making impacts to the back of the head more common. Their arms and hands are usually free to naturally react and cover at least the front and sides of the head helping to diffuse the impact. It becomes more important that a person on a skateboard, rollerblades or skates have a helmet that offers more protection for the back of the head.
The other problem is, how much helmet you will wear. A good motorcycle helmet will generally provide more protection than just about any other helmet, but they are heavier and do not provide as much venting. This is OK for riding a motorcycle because you are not exerting as much physical energy as you would be on a non-motorized vehicle.
Choose a helmet that is designed and tested for the activity you are involved in. If you are bothering to wear one, wear one that will give you the most suitable protection, and the best chance to avoid a serious head injury.