TRL has been awarded a contract with the UK’s Department for Transport (DfT) to oversee and execute the Safety Helmet Assessment and Rating Programme (SHARP).
The consumer awareness initiative was established in 2007 to support the reduction of severe and fatal head injuries typically sustained by motorcyclists involved in road collisions. Despite only constituting 1% of road traffic in Great Britain, motorcyclists account for an alarmingly high 20% of road fatalities. Of these fatalities, around 80% were attributed to head injuries. While all helmets are required to meet minimum safety standards by law, SHARP surpasses these standards, providing an independent evaluation of helmet impact performance. Helmets are rated on a scale of 1 to 5 stars, with 5-star helmets offering the highest level of protection. Additionally, SHARP provides guidance on choosing a properly fitting helmet. This information aids riders in making informed decisions within their budget at the point of purchase.
SHARP, aiming to assess approximately 30 helmets annually, draws on research findings from international studies on road traffic incidents involving motorcyclists. These studies replicate real-world accidents in laboratory conditions, allowing for the identification of impact locations, frequencies, and severities on helmets. By subjecting helmets to more demanding impacts than required by regulations, SHARP identifies helmets that offer superior performance in real-world collisions.
Dr. Phil Martin, Head of Transport Safety at TRL, emphasised the significance of TRL’s involvement in the SHARP program, stating, “Our appointment on the SHARP program feels like a return to our roots. From developing the original SHARP protocols, to advising the DfT on updates to the test protocols to reflect evolving helmet designs, TRL has been involved with SHARP for almost 20 years. Over time we have collected better data and provided better insights about the head injuries suffered by motorcyclists in road collisions. This data not only reveals the cause and location of injuries, but also the long term effects, derived from decades of collision research and our experience in providing expert testimony for personal injury claims.“
While helmet manufacturers prioritise safety and consumers consider it as a critical factor in decision-making, not all helmets are created equal. Dr. Phil Martin added, “SHARP solves the challenge for consumers in identifying these distinctions, as price alone does not serve as an indicator. Since its launch, helmet manufacturers and retailers have embraced the SHARP star rating system. We have confidence that they will demonstrate their continued enthusiasm for the scheme by participating in the process to update and expand it.”
As a social purpose enterprise, TRL operates the most advanced helmet impact test facility in the United Kingdom, conducting hundreds of motorbike helmet safety tests annually. They also manage the Road Accident In-Depth Studies (RAIDS) program for DfT, collecting detailed information about road traffic collisions, causes, and outcomes. This data underpins modern road vehicle safety standards and is essential for promoting road safety.
With a consistent commitment to key safety initiatives like NCAP and Euro-NCAP, which assign safety ratings for new cars, TRL plays a vital role in enhancing road safety. Their pivotal position in the SHARP program ensures its continued impact in safeguarding the lives of motorcyclists on UK roads.