TRL to deliver SHARP helmet safety scheme

The consumer information scheme, launched in 2007, seeks to reduce fatalities and serious head injuries amongst motorcyclists by providing an independent assessment of helmet performance.

Published on 25 October 2023

Share this article:

TRL is proud to announce it has been awarded a contract with the Department for Transport (DfT) to manage and deliver the Safety Helmet Assessment and Rating Programme (SHARP).

The consumer awareness programme was initiated in 2007 to support a reduction in the severe and fatal head injuries typically sustained by motorcyclists in road collision. According to the latest figures, motorcyclists, constituting only 1% of road traffic in GB1 tragically accounted for a disproportionately high 20% of road fatalities2. Approximately 80% of motorcyclist fatalities and 70% of those with serious injuries are the result of head injuries. While all helmets must meet minimum safety standards by law, SHARP goes beyond the established standards, providing an independent assessment of helmet impact performance, with safety ratings ranging from 1 to 5 stars, with 5-star helmets offering the highest level of protection. SHARP also offers guidance on selecting a properly fitting helmet. This information, provided at the point of purchase, can help riders make an informed choice within their budget.

SHARP, which aims to test around 30 helmets each year, utilises research findings from international studies on road traffic incidents involving motorcyclists. These studies replicate real-world accidents in laboratory conditions, allowing for the determination of impact locations, frequencies, and severities on helmets. By subjecting helmets to more demanding impacts than required by regulations, SHARP identifies helmets that perform significantly better in real-world collisions.

Dr. Phil Martin, Head of Transport Safety at TRL, expressed the significance of their role 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 a pivotal factor in their decision-making, not all helmets are created equal. “Although all helmets that meet the minimum standards are inherently safe, some provide superior protection,” adds Dr. Phil Martin. “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," he concludes.

TRL, a social purpose enterprise, operates the most advanced helmet impact test facility in the United Kingdom and conducts hundreds of helmet safety tests annually on motorbike helmets, cycle helmets and specialist protective helmets. They also manage the Road Accident In-Depth Studies (RAIDS) program for DfT, recording detailed information about road traffic collisions, their causes, and outcomes. This data underpins the safety standards of modern road vehicles and is essential for promoting road safety.

As a principal contributor to key safety initiatives like NCAP and Euro-NCAP, which designate safety ratings for new cars, TRL has consistently demonstrated its commitment to enhancing road safety for all. Their pivotal role in the SHARP program is set to ensure the continued influence of the scheme in protecting the lives of motorcyclists on UK roads. 


1 Road Traffic Estimates in Great Britain, 2022: Traffic in Great Britain by Vehicle Type   

2 Reported road casualties Great Britain, annual report: 2022  Table 4


Thinking of buying a new motorbike helmet? Check the SHARP rating before you buy

Get in Touch

Have a question? Speak to one of our experts today