Motorcycle helmets: The legal standards

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Every Australian motorcyclist knows they need a helmet if they want to ride. Wearing a motorcycle helmet significantly reduces your chances of suffering a serious head injury should you have an accident, and could literally be difference between life and death.

While our laws differ slightly from state to state, Australia as a whole has some of the world’s most strict and comprehensive motorcycle helmet laws, and that’s definitely a good thing. However, if you’re not aware of the legal standards for motorcycle helmets in Australia, here are the basics of what you need to know.

What are the laws with motorcycle helmets?

Helmet laws changed quite dramatically in 2016, leaving many riders confused, but the bottom line is you can now wear helmets that are ‘European standard’, opening up a range of new brands and helmets to riders, and potentially encouraging competition among manufacturers. Australian standards still apply, but any helmet that falls under these classifications is ‘fit for purpose’:

  • Australian standards AS1698 or AS/NZS1698
  • United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) 22.05 standard – commonly referred to as ‘European standard’.

These are the standards for both on-road and off-road bikes, as well as quads. Helmets that comply with one or both of these standards will usually have a sticker on the back of the helmet to signify this, but this is not always the case. Helmets are permitted to have a stitched label on the inside of a helmet instead that stipulates that the helmet complies with relevant safety standards. These certifications mean that the helmet has been through testing and will stand up better in a crash.

The main points of concerns when helmet testing from both the Australian and European standard are:

  • The helmet needs a means of absorbing impact energy, a means of distributing load, and a retention system. All of these components need to be permanently attached.
  • Nothing fitted to the helmet should be likely to cause injury in the cause of an impact.
  • The retention system (e.g. the chin strap) needs to be adjustable in order to produce tension.

Both the Australian and European standards stipulate many more points, but many of them are more relevant to manufacturers than consumers. For more detail, you can view the standards here.

What about attaching stuff to my helmet, like a Go Pro?

Neither the Australian AS1698 or ECE 22.05 standards detail any requirements for attaching cameras or Go Pros. While the laws prohibit modifying the helmet – such as drilling holes – generally it can be considered legal to attach a manufacturer-approved camera to your helmet, as long as it maintains the integrity of the helmet and complies with the aforementioned standards. Alternatively, body-mounted cameras are also able to be used.

However, there have been cases of riders being fined for helmet cameras. Generally, the best advice would be to tread with caution in this area. Expect laws to eventually keep up with technology, and consider using a body camera if practicable so as not to draw attention from the boys in blue.

When it comes down to it, considering the laws and standards differ by state, someone in the market for a helmet is definitely best off going to a reputable retailer and asking them about which helmets are road-legal and which aren’t. They’ll be able to help you find a helmet that suits your head shape and is 100% certified, while also advising you on manufacturer recommendations for helmet cameras.

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