Australian and European helmet standards allow tinted visors that filter only half the available light, yet car windows can be much darker, filtering as much as 65%.
In a strange twist, you can wear sunglasses that filter more than 90% of light.
Furthermore, the interpretation of the helmet laws seems to vary in each state, making it irritatingly confusing for riders.
It also creates an anomaly where motorcycle police wear tinted visors, yet it may be considered illegal for “citizen riders”!
While we haven’t heard of any fines for riders wearing tinted visors, we asked Australian Motorcycle Council Helmets Committee Chair Guy Stanford for his take on the laws regarding tinted visors:
Riders have been using dark visors since helmets were mandated for use in 1972.
In 2010, changes to the NSW road rules changed the definition of a helmet, providing micro-management of helmet labels and what accessories can be added.
These changes spread to some other states, so we now have different road rules in different states.
Use of dark visors is permitted only in Western Australia. In Queensland it is ok under AS/NZS 1698 helmet, but not under ECE 22-05 helmet. All other states require helmets to remain in compliance with the point-of-sale requirements.
Firstly, let’s look at what is a “dark visor”. There is a technical definition, based on Visible Light Transmitted (VLT). A perfectly clear visor will transmit nearly 100% of daylight, whereas a visor with 20% VLT is “dark”, i.e. the lower the VLT, the darker the visor.
Both helmet standards (AS/NZS 1698 and ECE 22-05) require that when offered for sale, the visor must comply with standards that limit VLT of the visor to 50%. This is not very dark at all. For example, car side windows are much darker, being permitted to be tinted to 35% VLT.
The Australian standard for sunglasses (AS/NZS 1067:2003) allows for sunglasses down to 8% VLT. That’s very dark, but there is no restriction on wearing very dark sunglasses when driving a car.
The problem for riders comes from current road rules that require helmets to continue to be in identical condition as they were when in the box at the shop. This also includes labels and instruction books.
There are several visor standards of relevance and all provide for tests to ensure that when impacted by a high speed rock or piece of gravel, the visor does not break in sharp “shards” that could cut you, particularly in the eye.
For ECE 22-05 helmets, visors at point of sale must comply with the ECE 2205 visor requirements. For AS/NZS 1698:2006, visors at point of sale must comply with AS 1609. Neither allows a dark visor below 50% VLT.
Two USA standards exist that are used for dark visors, one from the American National Standards Institute, ANSI Z.87, and one from the Vehicle Equipment Safety Commission of the US Department of Transportation, VESC-8.
Both of these test for impact, shatter, optical distortion, colour transmission, in a similar manner to AS 1609 and ECE 22-05.
The ANSI Z.87 standard allows for dark visors down to 14%VLT and VESC-8 allows down to 20% VLT.
Sunglasses are regarded as an accessory for use when driving and similarly, a dark visor is an accessory for a helmet where sunglasses may not be practical at all.
For example, when entering an underground car park or tunnel, a rider can instantly flip the dark visor out of their vision line, rather than stop, remove and stow away a pair of sunglasses.
The Australian Motorcycle Council has made strong representations to have helmet laws amended to remove the present impediment to use of dark visors in almost all states.
We applaud Western Australia for their commonsense and practical helmet laws that allow use of dark visors.
- More information available at the Motorcycle Council of NSW website.