Thursday, March 12, 2009

Group pushes for better motorcycle helmet labeling

This press release from the Governors Highway Safety Assn. caught my eye because it speaks to one important safety issue for motorcyclists: having the right equipment, in particular having the best helmet available. Not all of them are created equal and some apparently do not meet state or federal specs -- something that the federal government may fix by requiring better labeling on helmets.

Here's the release:

State Highway Safety Agencies Support Motorcycle Helmet Rulemaking Proposal

Statement for Attribution to Vernon F. Betkley, Jr., Chairman of the

Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA)

Washington, DC—Today, I have submitted comments indicating GHSA’s strong support for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) proposed rulemaking that will strengthen motorcycle helmet labeling requirements so that compliant helmets are easier to identify and counterfeiting is much more difficult.

As NHTSA notes, motorcycle helmets are 37 percent effective in reducing fatalities. Few other countermeasures offer such a high level of effectiveness. GHSA strongly supports mandatory motorcycle helmet laws for all riders and encourages the thirty states without such laws to enact them.

A major concern in the states that currently have mandatory laws is that it has become far too easy to evade law enforcement by using a novelty helmet that is neither in compliance with federal standards nor state laws.

The NHTSA proposal would amend the Agency’s current motorcycle helmet safety rules to require manufacturers to place a larger, tamper-proof DOT label on the back of certified helmets. This will make it for difficult to counterfeit.

The proposed rule would also strengthen the tests helmets must go through to receive DOT certification, including updated tests on how the helmets hold up during impact, whether objects can penetrate the helmet and how well the helmet stays in place during a crash. Recent tests of novelty helmets which are not DOT certified showed they fail to meet current DOT performance tests and provide minimal protection.

Motorcycle fatalities have increased 127 percent over the last decade, and this area remains one of the few in highway safety in which we have not made any progress. Proper helmet use, while not a magic bullet, is one of the factors that will help us reverse this dangerous trend. GHSA strongly applauds NHTSA for this proposal and for the Agency directly addressing a problem that is a growing and pervasive one. Developing a regulation in the face of a vocal minority that opposes helmet laws and flagrantly violates those laws is not an easy task and shows real leadership. We encourage NHTSA to move forward and finalize this proposal as quickly as possible. Lives depend on it.

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