Road rules farce set to end, says AMC

Crossing borders can be a legal nightmare

Road rules that vary from state to state could lead to riders being fined for:

  • Having a GPS on their bike;
  • Not wearing the correct helmet;
  • Standing up while moving;
  • Having blinkers too close together;
  • Wearing a camera on their helmet; or
  • Stretching their legs while riding.

These are the types of offences that are snagging riders because of the disparity of rules and standards across the nation.

However, there is light at the end of a very convoluted tunnel, according to Australian Motorcycle Council representative Guy Stanford. He’s has been ensconced in meetings with relevant state and national bodies for the past three years trying to iron out disparities in vehicle standards, road rules, helmet laws, exhaust noise and so on. “I think we are on the path to resolution. We just need co-operation between the states or continued confusion and anarchy will rein,” he says.

READ HOW A RACING LEGEND IS FIGHTING RIDING RULES

Bike GPS
Motorbike GPS

An amusing example of that confusion lies in the arcane South Australian rule 299 (2) (b) which makes it illegal to have a visual display unit in or on the vehicle while it’s moving.  In its submission to the National Transport Commission’s review of the Australian Road Rules and Vehicle Standards Rules, the AMC says the rule has simply failed to keep up with technology. It points out that information was “once represented with coloured incandescent bulbs and mechanically driven analog instruments”. These were replaced by LCD screens and now iPhone-like TFT screens with digital inputs.

Motorcycle Riders Association of South Australia president Phil McLelland confirms that while nobody has been prosecuted for the offence, the police went so far as to alert officers via their newsletter and riders have been verbally warned to remove them. This is despite the Australian Design Rules allowing visual display units.

Guys says such arcane laws are part of a “bigger issue”. He says national rules don’t have any “force of law” in each state, leaving it up to the “mean-spirited attitude of police” in some states to enforce errant rules. “That is just mean-spirited and not the intent of the road rules.” However, remedial action on many fronts has commenced and Guy expects a resolution to many of the issues in the next six months.

AS/NZ1698 helmet sticker
AS/NZ1698 helmet sticker

Meanwhile, Guy suggests riders take fines to court. He says this is particularly true in the case of helmet offences. “We’ve made the laws look so ridiculous that nobody could possibly be booked. The stupidity of the laws are just so obvious,” he says.

In what looks to be a positive move, NSW is currently considering adopting European helmets standard (United Nations ECE 22) instead of the Australian standard. However, Guy says it may lead to more dramas and he is trying to make sure that NSW does not do this in isolation of other states or the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

It seems like a tall order and we wish Guy and the AMC all the best of luck keeping the state and national bureaucrats in line. He says that the end result will be consistency across borders and even better quality helmets being allowed in Australia.

18 Comments

  1. The whole of Australia should just recognise all the standards from Europe UK USA and Japan. Helmets would be available much cheaper, therefore allowing far more people to afford much better helmets. I just can’t understand that I could buy a top of the range helmet from any of the major brands say in Europe and it would not be legal here, but at the same time I can buy a crap $49 helmet from Aldi from time to time and that one I s legal!

  2. Jude, there have been plenty of cases of helmet infringements mostly around the Hunter region and one taken to court in Wollongong where the charge was dismissed. The dismissal of that charge combined with a meeting I had with the Roads Minister in my capacity as the then chairman of the MCC of NSW followed up by a meeting with executives of Transport fro NSW and Centre for Road Safety led to a sudden drop in infringements issued from mid 2012 while we got all this sorted out in NSW. This is now coming to fruition with the setting up of the helmet sub committee which has had it’s first meeting in Nov 2013 and second in Feb 2014. A lot of individuals have given up a lot of their own time to get this straightened out including people that have been voted in by their member groups and straight out volunteers. Guy is an expert in this field and should be applauded for his efforts.

    1. Chris .. so one case ?? Is that the sum total of infringements that were actually issued??
      I hear lots of tales but see little evidence for the hysteria …

      IMHO there is nothing ‘to straighten out’ … the helmet manufacturers have already moved to include ECE and DOT certifications well ahead of any lobby group actions. This was gong to happen secondary to market pressures anyway so please don’t try to wrest glory from others who were just doing their work.

      1. Jude,
        As stated in my response “….there have been plenty of infringements issued…” , but one which went to court.
        As for the helmet manufacturers, they already meet several standards but they must pass an additional test for AS1698:1988 for sale as required by the ACCC and AS/NZS1698:2005 for use as required by NSW Road Rules. Some manufacturers need to make special runs to pass 1698 as the ECE helmets won’t pass the 1698 penetration test which is unique amongst all the world standards. AS/NZS1608 was based upon the DOT and JIS standards originally but they have now drifted apart.
        The manufacturers do not control either the ACCC or Transport for NSW and how they set their rules.
        This is not about “Wresting glory” from others, this is about hard work by volunteers getting a change to the standards and aligning them across state boundaries and about the possible change in NSW road rules that may well allow you to purchase an ECE approved helmet without the need for AS/NZS certification as well, thereby possibly saving you a truckload of cash.
        I am sure you feel your opinion is valid, but it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny when the facts of the matter are applied to it. This is an incredibly complex issue and there are many many factors involved.

        1. Chris

          The Australian standard is already national (and always has been) so does not need to be changed to allow alignment across state borders.

          It is, and always has been, an irrelevant argument to claim that a rider wearing a helmet compliant to the national standard in one state at the time of purchase would be illegal in another state, as any legal challenge would have shown adherence to the national standard at the time as per the intent of the legislators (if not the actual wording), assuming competent legal representation and evidence that the helmet used at the time was marked appropriately.

          I am unsure how you can assert that ‘truckloads of cash’ will be saved by moving to any of the other standards considering that one can already purchase a compliant helmet here for less than $100. How much cheaper do you want them on the shop shelves??

          BTW if NSW do change the certifications that they allow to be used on NSW roads then won’t that make NSW completely out of step with the other states thus compounding the problem? Will riders be able to cross borders?

        1. It says that it is illegal to have a visual display unit in a vehicle. A GPS is a visual display unit. The police can therefore say it is illegal to operate a GPS. That is exactly what the article also says.

          1. The article says this but the law says differently. If any part of the IMAGE ON THE SCREEN is visible to the driver from the normal driving position then you have a problem. So it is not a question of the operation of the GPS but the visibility of the IMAGE ON THE SCREEN that is the question. The article says something completely different. Some people call it “headline journalism” other people call it “bullshit”. I call it “grossly incorrect”.

          2. BTW Glenn, why would anybody need to input information into a GPS whilst moving? In any event you don’t need to see it to listen to directions. Plenty of time to input information when parked.

  3. I would like the AMC, and Guy Stanford in particular, to report to all us motorcyclists exactly how many infringement notices have actually been issued for non-compliant helmets, and when they were issued, as well as the outcome of any contested fines.

    We keep hearing loud squawking from some of these self appointed lobby groups but bugger all evidence that these issues are actually causing any problems at all let alone widespread chaos.

    I challenge the AMC to come out with the evidence and not just say it is so and expect reasonable people to accept this dribble.

      1. So either it’s a complete non-event …

        or it’s a massive dastardly cover-up and every yea police are burying the bodies of thousands of riders nabbed for these offences so the rest of us are kept oblivious of the fiendish plot.

        hmmmm ….

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