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Oct. 13, 2008 – U.S. helmet rules examined

By Karin Gelschus
Associate Editor
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) wants to amend several safety standards for motorcycle helmets.
The proposed changes to the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard could make it easier for consumers to identify DOT helmets and make it harder for vendors to tamper with DOT labels.
One proposal would require manufacturers to place a larger, tamper-proof DOT label on the back of certified helmets, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters says the new labels would make it more difficult for vendors to remove the labels on safe helmets and put them on novelty helmets.
The tests the helmets must pass to receive DOT certification also might be tougher. Possible testing changes could address how the helmets hold up during impact, whether objects can penetrate the helmet and how well the helmet stays in place during a crash.
Once the proposals are published in the Federal Register, the agency will seek public comment for 60 days. To view the proposed rule, go to www.nhtsa.gov.

Affected personnel
Peters says the new rules would make it easier for riders to identify and use effective helmets, unlike novelty helmets riders sometimes use.
“Novelty helmets do little to protect riders during an accident,” she said in the release. “This proposal will make it easier for riders to know in advance whether the helmet they buy will keep them safe.”
Consumers aren’t the only ones the higher standards could have an effect on. Richard Kimes, national marketing manager for national distributor Helmet House, says the regulations could have an impact on the manufacturers and distributors as well.
“These new standards have the potential to increase the sales of complying helmets,” he said. “We anticipate though this change to the new DOT standard to take a few years to implement due to the number of helmets in the distribution and dealer pipeline.
“The elimination of the sales of non-complying novelty helmets will benefit us over time, especially at lower price points where consumers might be tempted to purchase a non-complying novelty helmet.”
New data indicates that almost 20 percent of motorcyclists in states with helmet laws wear a non-compliant helmet. Peters says the proposed rule will help reduce the number of motorcycle fatalities and injuries, which have been on the rise during the past decade. Since 1997, fatalities have more than doubled, increasing by 144 percent.
David Kelly, acting National Highway Traffic Safety Administration administrator, stated, “As our testing has shown, these novelty helmets do not have the energy-absorbing capacity to protect a rider in a highway crash. A DOT-certified and labeled helmet, as proposed today, will help consumers make more knowledgeable decisions when purchasing a helmet.”
Increasing riders’ safety is always a good thing, says Kimes.
“The rules are a positive thing for consumers, who need to ride in complying helmets to help increase crash safety vs. riding in novelty helmets,” he said, “as well as to comply with the law.”

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