A national motorcycle helmet forum has failed to reach any resolutions nor give riders any clear indication of what is a legal helmet or whether tinted visors and helmet cameras are legal.
Today’s forum was convened by Standards Australia and included representatives of state and federal governments, road safety groups, certifiers, retailers, distributors, importers and most importantly riders.
At the end of the Sydney forum, Standards Australia chairman Richard Brooks only committed to report back to the board on the range of issues discussed.
While riders are hoping for “harmonisation” of the helmet laws and their enforcement across state borders, one forum attendee did suggest a further step – global harmonisation of helmet standards!
Dan Leavy from the NSW Centre for Road Safety, says we should follow Queensland’s lead and adopt the international UNECE 22 standard.
He says change is needed because the current Australian Standard is restrictive, limits choice and sizes, and has no quality assurance requirements.
He says there are no helmet manufacturers in Australia and we are a very small market in the globe without a lot of influence over helmet manufacture.
However, rather than surrendering control of safety standards to an international body, he says Australia can have direct input into furthering and updating this standard as we are a signatory to the relevant international standard treaty.
He says their centre has also compared the Australian standard with five other standards and found there are “no meaningful differences observed”. The only difference was in the penetration test which is particular to Australia and not included in UNECE testing.
“It’s to do with build quality and it’s not a risk to riders,” he says of the penetration test which consists of dropping a spike on to a helmet. “If this was a real risk, pedestrians would be walking around wearing chin pads.”
The centre has produced a public consultation paper on their proposal which they have postponed until after the forum, he says.
While the forum didn’t reach any conclusions, there is some hope that the arguments put forward by rider groups will be heard by the relevant state and federal bodies as there were several representatives for various ministers at the forum.
A representative for Federal Minister Bruce Billson says there is no timeframe for a resolution on the issue of helmet standards.
“Recommendations have been given to the minister, but he hasn’t made an indication,” he says. “However, he is interested in the outcome of this forum and he’s very well aware of what is going on.”
Australian Standards spokesman Adam Stingemore pointed out that they develop standards and it is up to governments to make a choice to use them.
However, he acknowledged the problems of different laws between states. “If there was one standard there would be an expectation that you could use that standard and ride around Australia. At the moment you can’t,” he says.
He says they need agreement between eight state and territory governments and the commonwealth, plus road authorities, police and multiple regulatory authorities with conflicting objectives.
Australian Motorcycle Council helmet committee chair Guy Stanford says riders currently don’t know if a helmet complies and they “have no faith in the system”.
“The situation has been confusing and we need to resolve it without getting bogged down,” he says.
The AMC is “comfortable” with the UNECE 22 standard as it is adopted in more than 50 countries and is based on studies of crashed helmeted riders, not racing car driver helmets as is the Australian standard is.
More reports from today’s forum will be released in coming days.