The motorcycle rider fined for wearing a GoPro on his HJC helmet plans to fight the charge.
Matt Smithson was fined $289 and three demerit points for wearing a non-complying helmet, even though the laws are vague about attaching anything to a helmet. “I’ve called the officer and asked if she wishes to change her mind about the fine, but she’s on leave at the moment,” he says.
“If she won’t then I will ring Maurice Blackburn Lawyers who have said they will help be out pro bono (free of charge).”
Matt should have a pretty good case. MotorbikeWriter has contacted every police service in Australia and the general reply is that it is ok to attach a camera or Bluetooth unit to a helmet so long as it doesn’t obstruct vision and you don’t drill holes in it as that would affect the “structural integrity” of the helmet.
The West Australian police probably summed it up best: “Helmets can not be modified (i.e. drilling holes etc is prohibited) however there is no reason that a camera or communications device couldn’t be attached so long as the helmet did not need to be modified to accept the attachment. Many helmets have the facility to fit Bluetooth devices and camera devices usually with a clamping system that allow attachment without modification of the helmet. Any attachment must not obstruct the vision of the rider, have the potential to injure the rider or affect their control of the vehicle.”
The Tasmanian police service adds that “things stuck or attached to a helmet in a temporary way would not usually invalidate” Australian Standard AS/NZS 1698. “It is only more permanent modifications that would, such as drilling or screwing into the helmet, which may have an impact on its structural integrity or that would impact its ability to roll.”
None of the contacted police services could find an example of someone being fined for attaching a GoPro or other device, except Victoria. The Victorian and South Australian police service seem to have a slightly different view.
A Victorian Police road policing and public transport safety spokeswoman says it all hinges on the approval of the helmet manufacturer. “If the fitting of a camera or other instrument compromises the helmet’s compliance with Australia and New Zealand standards, then an offence may be committed. If someone has concerns about whether the fitting of a device to a helmet complies with the current standards, they should speak to the manufacturer of the helmet,” she says. “Anything added to a helmet alters its specifications and can only be added if approved by the manufacturer.”
The South Australian police agree but admit there is “no simple answer to this”. “It is very complex and involves Australian (design) standards for helmets and relevant state legislation. In answer to your question, SAPOL does not recommend damaging the structural integrity of any helmet by drilling holes into it.
“Any changes to the original design and structure of the original helmet may have an effect of the structural integrity of that helmet in relation to how it was originally designed and tested to comply with the standards. Any changes made could affect the original design compliance and make the helmet non compliant and as such illegal. Any changes would require a compliance certificate from the individual helmet manufacturer.”
Matt’s GoPro was stuck on with the supplied fittings. He has contacted HJC for advice and is awaiting a reply. Meanwhile, we contacted the HJC helmet distributor, McLeod Accessories, for advice.
Spokesman Damien Irwin says they have no problems with anyone attaching a camera or Bluetooth to their helmets so long as it didn’t involve drilling holes.
“Obviously you don’t want to attach too much and have too much weight on your helmet. Some common sense has to be involved,” he says. “The manufacturers would probably play safe and recommend that you don’t (attach anything) but the bottom line is the world’s top racers use GoPros in race events around the world with no detrimental effects.
“The police force even put their police comms into their helmets that we provide which requires them to modify their helmets.”
The 27-year-old electrician says he only fitted the GoPro to his new HJC helmet the previous night and has always ensured he has his GoPro on after an accident a year earlier with a truck where the driver disputed he had not given Matt right of way.
It’s not as if Matt makes a habit of being run in by the law. In nine years of driving and riding, he has only coped one speeding ticket and that was the day after an 80km/h zone was changed to 70km/h and he was sprung doing 77km/h.
So he has a very strong case if this ever goes to a court.