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William “Pete” Snell was an amateur sports car race driver who died in 1956 when the helmet he was wearing failed to protect his head during an automobile crash.
The Snell Memorial Foundation was founded as a memorial to “Pete” in 1957 by a group of scientists, physicians, racing colleagues and friends who decided to team together and attempt to create a safer helmet.
The purpose of the foundation was to create a dedicated effort to promote research, education, testing and development of standards geared to improve the effectiveness of automotive racing helmets. Today Snell approved helmets can be found for a wide variety of sports including motorcycling.
In 1959, the first safety standards for protective headgear for auto racing were issued by Snell.
The Snell standards address the performance of the helmet, not the materials used. Snell is known today for its ongoing work of continually upgrading the helmet standards throughout the world. The real advantage of this testing is because it allows consumers to buy helmets that provide the highest degree of safety.
Snell helmet standards surpass the requirements set forth by numerous organizations that oversee helmet safety including the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission's 16 CFR Part 1203, U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the American Society of Testing Materials (ASTM).