Part 1 – Impossible to Comply With RR 270
Road Rule 270 requires a rider to …..wear an approved motor bike helmet securely fitted and fastened on the rider’s head.
Few riders have a problem with wearing a securely fastened helmet.
However, there are significant problems with the definition of an approved motorbike helmet
In NSW, the definition requires that the helmet complies with any one or more of the following standards and has an identifying mark certifying compliance with that standard
The term complies with means present tense, hence the road rule requires the helmet to continue to comply, exactly as it was when it was offered for sale, including all packaging, labels, etc, required by the Standard.
This means that unless the helmet carries ALL the labels it came with, the helmet does not comply with the Standard and hence, the rider is in breach of Road Rule 270
The wording of the NSW Road Rule means that the helmet becomes non-compliant if the Instructions for Use and Care (swing tag booklet) are not accompanying the helmet or that the Informative labelling is removed from the visor.
Let’s look at how idiotic and confusing this really is.
Clause 5.8 of AS/NZS 1698:2006 requires a full-face helmet to be supplied with a clear visor in compliance with AS 1609. In turn, Clause 7.2 of AS 1609 requires that “durable labels shall be attached to eye protectors or their wrapping…”
Below is a typical standards compliant full-face helmet being offered for sale. Note that the “Informative Labelling” required by Clause 7.2 of AS1609 is printed on the protective film on the visor. Removal of the protective film renders the helmet non-compliant.
We may also note that the protective film on this helmet includes the words “Be sure to remove this film before use”.
Once the protective film is removed, the helmet is rendered non-compliant with AS/NZS 1698:2006 and hence, the rider does not comply with NSW Road Rule 270.
Removing the Instructions or visor labelling means the helmet is no longer an approved motorbike helmet as it no longer complies with AS/NZS 1698:2006. Similar provisions apply to UN/ECE 22-05.
The rider may be fined as if they were not wearing a helmet at all – not wear approved helmet, Offence Code 83390 earning them 3 license demerit points and a large financial penalty, the same penalty for failing to wear a seatbelt in a car, or failing to wear any helmet at all.
Similarly, if any labels on a standards compliant helmet have faded in the sun, or become partially illegible due to sweat and wear, the rider is liable to be fined as if they were not wearing a helmet at all.
It’s an ongoing farce that effectively means ANY rider can be fined for their helmet failing to be in compliance with the Standard – because labels are missing, the Instructions for Use and Care are not attached to the helmet or labels are faded and/or partially illegible and hence the helmet cannot be classed as in perpetuity being in the same condition as when first sold.
The entire body of law is brought into disregard by such poorly constructed and unworkable regulation.
The Australian Consumer Law 2011 demands that any helmet offered for sale must be able to be substantiated as being in compliance with the standard claimed.
Road authorities have set a trap for motorcycle riders, triggered by removing packaging labels to make the helmet useable.
The current road rule is impossible to comply with if one intends to USE a helmet.
Additionally, if the helmet turns out to be non-compliant and is recalled by the ACCC, then the rider may be fined, having been made responsible for the non-compliance of the helmet supplier. This reverses the onus of responsibility of consumers, blaming the victim.
This same problem manifests itself in a raft of additional issues faced by motorcycle riders. Helmet wearing enforcement statistics fail to reflect how many riders were not wearing a helmet at all.
Rewrite the definition of an approved helmet to read “….has an identifying mark certifying compliance with one or more of the following standards:”
i.e. remove the current requirement for enduring compliance, perhaps as is done for AS/NZS 1698 by Clause 5 of the Queensland Transport Operations (Road Use Management—Road Rules)
as is done in WA by
Gazette No.54, 1 April 2016, Page 1005
A Note on Helmet Standards
Product Standards ensure that a helmet purchased by a rider meets minimum safety requirements. In fact, most helmets exceed these minimums to ensure product variation in production is always ABOVE the requirements.
Helmets are assessed for Standards compliance prior to sending them to market. This assessment is based on statistical sampling and testing of production systems and statistical sampling of finished products for batch testing.
It is impossible to determine standards compliance of a single helmet without destroying it.
Helmet compliance can only be certain at the point of sale, where the Australian Consumer Law has the power to require proof of compliance and force recalls through regulation of the content of a Standard claimed. Product Standards include label and packaging requirements.
Once a standards compliant product is put into service and used, determination of Standards compliance can no longer be performed.
Contents of Standards are not regulations for use of a product.
Standards are for products offered for sale. To go down the path of disallowing parts of a Standard is a slippery slope towards useless standards.
However, “in-service” regulations may provide guidance as to safety for products in-use (e.g. tyre or brake wear limits, noise limits, etc)
A Note on helmet wearing penalties
The use of only one prescribed offence “of not wearing a helmet” is a major point of potential conflict between police and riders
This creates a legal fiction which does not properly address the fact all the major standards have developed over time and any difference in safety between helmet standards is marginal.
The regulations need to specify a number of different offences (as is done in NZ) with a range of penalties which reflect the actual degree of unsafe behaviour giving officers on the ground options which are more appropriate
- Failure to wear helmet to approved Standard – 1 point
- Failure to present helmet for inspection – 2 points
- Failure to wear any helmet – 3 points
Regulators appear to be still fighting the 1950’s battle to get riders to wear a helmet at a time when there were no standards. The battle was won a long time ago. Australian riders have one of the world’s highest rates of helmet wearing. Failure to reform proscribed offences has brought the regulations into disrepute, with many riders viewing certain provisions of the current regulations as revenue raising measures or market protection for various vested interests, with little basis in safety.