Approved helmets are ‘dangerous’

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Helmets that have been approved for Australian riders may be too heavy and stiff, causing more injuries than they prevent, according to one researcher.

Helmet law researcher Tim Kelly says the very rules that are designed to approve safe helmets are forcing us to wear helmets that are too heavy in the shell with liners that are too stiff and promote “basal skull fractures”.

He says the various accreditation tests performed on helmets such as a spear penetration and energy attention tests favour these types of helmets.

The tests are indeed strange, especially the spear test which involves placing the helmet on a “headform” (dummy head) then a steel spike “striker” (3kg and pointed) is raised 3m above the helmet and dropped. The helmet must ensure that there will be no contact between the striker and the headform at any point tested within a specified area.

Now how often does a spike drop on a rider’s head? Where’s the real-world relevance in that test?

He also notes that Australia doesn’t even have a crucial chin bar test for full-face helmets that is used overseas.

Helmet laws
Australian Standard sticker

Tim claims that wearing an Australian-approved helmet does not offer riders “the best protection available in decreasing your risk of serious injury or fatality in the event of an accident”.

He has devoted some time to researching the issues and has presented his case on his website.

“I’ve spent the past several months studying this and the science is legit and world renowned,” he says.

“To be honest I really hope there are experts out there with data and research to prove me wrong, ‘cause if not, what have the people in charge been doing in the last 27 years?”

The Australian Standard (AS) 1698 was created in the 1974 and has been updated three times since, the most current version in 2006.

However, Tim points out that the latest version is not freely available to the public as the rights to these standards were sold to an international corporation and a fee is required to access the standard.

Australian Motorcycle Council Helmets Committee Chair Guy Stanford says the cost for all the relevant documents is $692.

Lawyers in a lengthy ongoing court case are using this as the basis of their argument against a fine for not wearing an approved helmet.

READ ABOUT THE COURT CASE

Meanwhile, the helmet standards are vague, to easy to misinterpret and perhaps unsafe.

A helmet summit earlier this year looked at making changes to the standards but so far only Queensland has gone ahead and accepted other well-known international standards, leaving us with helmet laws that vary from state to state.

3 Comments

  1. ….Christopher Reeve was wearing his horse riding helmet when he went head first onto the ground
    after falling of his stationary horse….we all know what happened to him….his head was all
    good , but his neck was shattered , they actually had to reattach his head to the top of his spine.
    Wear whatever you want on ya head i reckon….baseball cap , hankie, undies, turban, plastic bucket,
    who gives a shit…..Australians are obsessed with telling everyone else whats best for them, its become chronic…..

  2. Hi Mark,
    With respect to all who work in relevant emergency services, what an ambo ‘reckons’ doesn’t actually qualify as objective evidence. While there is probably room for improvement in the testing regimes as suggested, there is no hard evidence that I’m aware of which demonstrates that the weight of currently approved helmets is causing more injuries than the helmets prevent. A recent study in California has looked at this issue – comparing injuries among riders using approved helmets with those using light weight (illegal) ‘novelty’ helmets, finding no increase in injury risk with the approved helmets. Hopefully this research will be published soon. Despite continuing resistance among some riders in the US particularly, the more general argument about the effectiveness of helmets has long been settled – they work. In the meantime, riders concerned about the issue here are still able to choose between approved helmets of different weights.
    Cheers

  3. An ambo i knew years ago commented on the number deaths he had seen
    from brain stem injury {the part where the brain meets the spinal column
    which he reckoned was possibly caused by the extra weight of the helmet
    in wiplash type situations.

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