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Proposed NHTSA Rule Takes Aim at Novelty Motorcycle Helmet Use

A proposed NHTSA rule will strengthen motorcycle helmet laws. A proposed NHTSA rule will strengthen motorcycle helmet laws.[/caption] While total motor vehicle fatalities decreased by 15 percent from 1994 to 2012, motorcycle fatalities doubled over the same period of time. In fact, statistics show that a motorcyclist is 30 times more likely to die in a motorcycle crash than an automobile passenger, with traumatic head injuries being the primary cause of death. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), much of the blame lies in substandard motorcycle helmets.


In an effort to curb these statistics and save lives, NHTSA officials recently proposed a new rule calling for increased safety standards and labeling requirements for motorcycle helmets. Of top concern is the growing use of novelty helmets that do not comply with current safety requirements established by the US Department of Transportation. They’re popular for multiple reasons, including the fact that they’re significantly less expensive than compliant helmets. Despite the fact that these novelty helmets are not intended for highway use, they are heavily marketed to consumers for on-road use. As a result, they’re used by upward of 27 percent of motorcycle riders and passengers in states with universal motorcycle helmet laws.


If adopted, the NHTSA’s proposed rule would assist law enforcement officials in the 17 states that require the use of DOT-compliant motorcycle helmets by making it easier to identify noncompliant helmets. Current certification labeling requirements require all certified helmets to feature a decal indicating compliance with federal standards, but in states with universal helmet use laws, many motorcyclists place fake DOT decals on noncompliant helmets. They get away with it because most law enforcement agencies lack the time or resources to individually test potentially noncompliant helmets. To better address bogus labels, the proposed rule would require all DOT-approved helmets to pass preliminary screening criteria that would be easy for officers to test in the field. Under the rule, compliant helmets would be required to cover a fixed amount of a user’s skull, and to have a minimum helmet shell and lining thickness that can be measured with an inexpensive probe.


“Wearing a helmet that meets DOT standards can literally mean the difference between life and death,” said NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind. “Our proposal ensures that when motorcyclists put on a helmet it offers that life-saving protection.” Here in Florida, anyone over 21 years of age may operate or ride a motorcycle without wearing a helmet so long as they carry insurance providing at least $10,000 in medical benefits for injuries. But considering the risk, we highly recommend wearing a DOT-compliant helmet. If you have suffered injury or lost someone you love in a motorcycle accident caused by someone else’s negligence or by wearing a helmet that had erroneously been marketed for on-road use, contact an experienced motorcycle accident attorney. Jacksonville’s Harrell and Harrell can be reached at 800-251-1111.