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Changes to Helmet Laws

On Friday the 11th of December 2017, Rule 270 of the NSW Road Rules was amended to allow the use of the International Helmet standard UN ECE 22.05 in NSW.

The NSW Roads and Ports Minister made good on his announcement at Motorcycle Awareness Week in October when he stated he would change the NSW road rules once the ACCC amended or revoked Consumer Protection Notice Number 9 (CPN9) to ensure that the helmets were legal for sale in order to protect riders and merchants. Basically the Minister did not want to put the cart before the horse.

Just two weeks after CPN9 was revoked, the change to Rule 270 was implemented by the Minister. A major vote of thanks must go to Duncan Gay, his team, and the team at Centre for Road Safety (CRS) who pushed this through so fast. Dan Leavy, Manager Safer Vehicles in the CRS needs to take bow for his work, and not forgetting Tim Reardon and Margaret Prendergast for giving the MCC of NSW a fair hearing in 2012 when this was first put on the table with Transport for NSW.

The ACCC revoked Consumer Protection Notice Number 9 on 27th November 2015 in response to submissions put forward by the MCC of NSW and other state rider groups under the guidance of the Australian Motorcycle Councils helmet committee chaired by Guy Stanford and including Dr Bruce Campbell of the MCC of NSW, Chris Mearns of MRAQ, David Wright MRAWA and Peter Baulch of VMC. You can read more details below from Guy. Congratulations to the entire team and every rider advocacy group that forms part of the AMC and secured this change for riders.

Christopher “CJ” Burns
Chairman MCC of NSW

The ACCC Revokes Consumer Protection Notice 9 (Helmets)

The Minister for Small Business, Kelly O’Dwyer, signed a Revocation of Consumer Protection Notice No.9 of 1990, thus removing certain restrictions for sale of motorcycle helmets. That is, motorcycle helmets offered for sale must now be FIT FOR PURPOSE, which means they must be compliant with requirements of road rules. These remain different in each State. Helmet Standards required for sale and use on roads are specifically detailed in Road Rules. The ACCC can demand substantiation of proof of the claim to compliance with any of the Standards required by road rules.

This means several things to us.

Firstly, it means that helmets which have been sold illegally since 2006, are now legal to sell.

Secondly, it means that sale of ECE 22-05 helmets is now legal in Australia

Thirdly, it means that NSW and other road authorities now allow USE of helmets complying with ECE 22-05.

Notes: It is abundantly clear that many legislative errors have been made and these have placed impositions upon end users. The level of regulatory supervision of motorcycle helmets has been frankly, appallingly bad.
Through action in concert between all members of the Australian Motorcycle Council (AMC) since 2010, some clarity and common sense is arriving.
I’ll take this opportunity to thank the members of the AMC Helmets Committee for thorough research and determined action over many years. Chris Mearns (Qld), Dave Wright (WA), Peter Baulch (Vic) Bruce Campbell (NSW). Much credit goes to Dr Bruce Campbell for his attention to rigour and clarifying arguments in all AMC documents. While some people have trouble in digesting the complexities, Bruce dances with them. The solid wall of consistent, coherent and repeated government representations from all AMC member State and Territory rider organisations, to maintain pressure since 2011 has brought this result.

A critical meeting occurred in NSW in March 2012 between CJ Burns and others of the MCC of NSW and senior executives of the (then) NSW RTA where problems with lack of a transparent and contestable regulatory process for helmet road rule changes were raised. This was followed up by other AMC member organisations in their own jurisdictions, with variable results all round! Multiple changes in road rules around the country followed, none of which solved the fundamental problem and amendments of amendments of road rules took place.

The first task was to raise consciousness amongst riders of the actual problem. This started with an article in Road Rider magazine in 2011 setting out the problem of inconsistency in laws that were a burden on riders.

Challenging a person’s beliefs can cause them to get upset.
We did upset a few. But believing in fairy tales is for children.

The second task was to work through the morass of supposedly responsible regulators. Each with their own little part and each making decisions (or not) to suit themselves with no regard for other aspects of the supposed “system” for Standards Compliance.
There are deep problems in this area and they remain.
The AMC has a remarkable collection of correspondence with multiple govt agencies, across multiple jurisdictions at State and Federal levels, each blaming another. Untangling that Gordian knot took a lot of effort, time (two years) and much further correspondence, but as we proceeded we started to gain assistance from some individuals within agencies, while also getting resistance from others. These public servants on both sides, cannot be mentioned, but I will mention and praise the carefully reasoned work of Dan Leavy of the NSW RMS and the full support of Marg Prendergast, General Manager of the NSW Centre for Road Safety.

As the clamour from AMC rider representatives gained momentum, some individual riders joined the push, independently voicing the issues. This assisted the process. Special mention to Wayne Carruthers for his hammer in velvet coating letters to agencies. As general knowledge grew, Forum discussions became more sane. The press took an interest. Some chose to not upset the status quo with advertisers. Special mentions to Mark Hinchcliffe at and Emeritus Editor Peter Thoeming of Australian Motorcyclist magazine. This engaged both the civic society and political processes more deeply and momentum for change grew steadily.

One critical event was the Forum at Standards Australia in February 2015, which followed intervention by the Dept of Industry (sought and obtained by AMC) and the cancellation of a proposed Amendment to AS/NZS 1698:2006 which would have further weakened the local Standard.

At the Forum, AMC Helmets Committee members Dr Bruce Campbell and myself presented a paper detailing problems with regulatory arrangements and inconsistencies. Dan Leavy of the NSW Centre for Road Safety presented on the regulatory problem and voiced a proposal to resolve some issues, including national adoption of ECE 22-05, as Australia is represented on the European Working Party responsible for vehicle standards, under which ECE 22-05 is administered.

This event, more than any other, brought the various regulators into one place and they left with recognition of the problems. Those good people in positions to contribute have followed up and brought a transparent process where they can, preparing the way for changes.

On the 6th November 2015, the Transport Infrastructure Committee met and their Communiqué reports:-

Political assistance had been engaged and for this we thank ACT Minister Shane Rattenbury and NSW Minister Duncan Gay for having this item given prominence on the Agenda for the TIC. This assistance was gained by the steady and professional rider advocacy by MRA ACT and MCC of NSW respectively. But, this was not just due to these two jurisdictions, as each of the other AMC members had been steadily educating their local agencies to the issues so a unanimous vote to proceed was a straightforward task. (special mentions for MRASA, MRAWA, VMC, TMC, MRAQ and RANT). Without question, it’s all due to a consistent unified approach. More is required to finish the task with a new, uniform National Road Rule 270 to replace the disparate variations with many unbelievable stupidities, impossibilities and allowance of whimsical enforcement. This requires that all road authorities, as agreed by the TIC, engage the agreed full COAG principles of Better Regulation and conduct a transparent, contestable Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) with wide community consultation.

An essential issue is that while helmets at point of sale must comply with a relevant standard, a helmet cannot continue to comply once it is out of the box and in use. However, the helmet still carries markings demonstrating that when sold it was in compliance.

New road rules may include “in-service” regulations for helmets, to address accessories for helmets or modification, such as by cutting or drilling. Be ready to participate in the RIS in 2017. We expect that riders will continue to be subjected to confusing and misleading announcements and gossip. Put fresh batteries in your bullshit meter. We have made good progress, but there is another swamp to cross.

Guy Stanford
Australian Motorcycle Council Helmets Committee Chair