Riders are being ripped off up to a million dollars in helmet non-compliance offences that may be bogus, yet the NSW cops are still issuing helmet fines.
This is despite state and federal ministers reconsidering helmet laws after a Standards Australia helmet forum in Sydney in February and a helmet camera test case in a Victorian court has again been delayed – now until July 10 – while the police prosecutor tries to prove their case.
Helmet campaigner Wayne Carruthers, who has more than 4000 signatures on a petition for helmet law sanity and uniformity, says it’s a ripoff for police to keep issuing fines for helmet infringements such as “incorrect” stickers, fitting a camera or tinted visors while the laws are being tested and reconsidered.
“The issuing of infringement notices for camera and tinted visors is not just a ripoff it is professional misconduct and blatant revenue-raising,” he says.
“I wonder what will happen as a result of the helmet cam case that is waiting to be finalised soon? If the technicality is upheld, will these fines need to be rescinded?”
His comments come as NSW cops have issued a warning to riders that they are “highlighting motorcyclist awareness and compliance” after 19 riders have died on NSW roads this year, up four from in 2014.
They say that since 2013 officers have issued 3285 fines for non-compliant motorcycle helmets. At $311 per fine, that’s more than $1m in fines. Obviously not all are for tinted visors, cameras, or incorrect stickers.
We asked NSW police for a breakdown of the fines, but they said they could not provide a breakdown, “only they are non-compliant in terms of the Australian Standard”.
Wayne says the police are incorrectly interpreting the various state regulations to claim tinted visors and cameras are voiding the certification of helmets.
“There are no provisions in any of the state regulations to enable it,” he says. “In fact in all other areas of standards regulation such as exhausts, car tinted windows, seat belts, etc, police are only empowered to issue minor defect notices which then enables inspection by qualified inspectors who are either empowered to take action directly against retailers for selling sub standard products or refer the problems to the ACCC for action.”
While the Australian Standard is open to interpretation and is being reconsideredby relevant government ministers and being tested in a Victorian court, it seems ongoing policing for these offences is nothing less than a rider ripoff, not a safety issue.
We also asked police in each state for the number of fines issued for helmet non-compliance and a breakdown of those figures. So far we have been met with stony silence except for the West Australian police who said they were too busy.
(UPDATE: Victorian police have just replied: In 2012/13 there were 707 offences and a total of $199,374 collected in fines and in 2013/14, 607 offences, $175,423 fines.)
In the Victorian test case, Maurice Blackburn lawyers have argued that it is too expensive and difficult for riders to know or comprehend the arcane helmet laws. The magistrate asked the police to do some homework on this claim and the matter has now been held over twice since December as they try to work it out.
So if the police prosecutors can’t fathom the complex laws and justify their fines, how can riders be expected to comply?
Meanwhile, GoPro video may be used in evidence against a passenger in a car that forced a driver to run a Colorado rider off the road, seriously injuring him. In Australia, the rider would be fined for wearing the camera!
Have you been fined? Tell us about it. Meanwhile, read this article about what others have done to avoid having to pay helmet fines.