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DOT stands for Department Of Transportation, and it sets the standards for what is expected from a motorcycle helmet before it is sold to the public. Motorcycle helmets sold in the United States meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 218. This standard defines minimum levels of performance that helmets must meet to protect the head and brain in the event of a crash. 

Helmets are put through several test to ensure safety, one of these test involve the helmets being dropped at freefall speed onto a piercing striker from fixed heights. For the helmet to pass this test the striker must not pieced enough to make contact the head foam. From there a second test is underway. Just the same as the first test the helmet is dropped from fixed heights but this time on flat surfaces. Dropped at the same speed the helmet must withstand and absorb the energy from the impact. Testing for retention involves placing the helmet’s retention straps under tension. Different levels or pressure are applied for 30 seconds and 120 seconds, if they cannot withstand the pressure they fail to gain "DOT" labeling. Helmets will come in all shapes and sizes but they should all cover these bases if they hope to be classified as "DOT"

Lets recap. The helmets must be able to absorb energy, resist penetration, and maintain retention effectiveness to reach FMVSS 218. The last requirement is proper labeling, although fake DOT labels can be bought online manufacturer's are sometimes required to place their own labels on the outside of their helmets. Labels must include; Model number and name, "DOT" below the manufacturer's name, (FMVSS) 218 below "DOT", and lastly "CERTIFIED" under "DOT" 

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