Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Confusion grows over motorcycle helmet attachments

A biker has been warned about wearing a motorcycle helmet camera as confusion reigns over the laws on helmet cameras and bluetooth units.

Adelaide rider Erica Aria went to the Sturt Police Station to submit video of drivers cutting him off in traffic but was surprised when he was instead given an official warning for an “illegal helmet camera”.

Eric Aria says he is planning to fight the warning and has engaged motorcycle rights legal experts Maurice Blackburn Lawyers.

“I wanted to help them, but walked out with a ticket in my hand,” he says. “I was really surprised.”

The police warned he could cop a $450 fine if he is caught again with the camera.

Police comment
Police say the rider was issued a caution for breaching Design Standards.

“Cameras on motorcycles are legal as long as they don’t interfere with the structural integrity of the helmet,” a police media spokesperson says.

“The officer was of the opinion the rider was in breach due to the manner in which he had attached his camera.

“If someone receives an expiation notice (fine) and they are disputing the facts, they can elect to have the matter heard before a court.

“When someone is cautioned, there is no fine attached to the expiation and hence, there would be no court hearing.

“If the man is disputing the facts with his caution, he is quite within his rights to lodge a complaint with the Police Ombudsman.

“Attaching a camera to a helmet is a personal choice however, the manner in which that camera is attached should not interfere with the structural integrity of the helmet.”

Eric says his helmet camera was attached by double-sided tape and he had not tampered with the integrity of the helmet.

Confusion over laws
He says the law is not specific and causing confusion among riders.

The incident follows a recent Facebook claim by a rider that a NSW police warned him electronic attachments to motorcycle helmets would become an offence from March 31 with three demerit points and a $430 fine.

However, NSW police tell us there is no such ruling.

In fact, last year NSW police were instructed by the Police Commissioner to stop issuing infringement notices for helmet accessories.

The Facebook post is either Trump “fake news” or the work of a rogue cop trying to scare a rider. Either way, it only adds to rider confusion and concern about different police interpretations of the rules across state boundaries.

The ACT government last year ratified the legality of helmet cameras and Bluetooth units, while states such as Queensland and Western Australia do not see it as an issue.

In fact, Queensland police actively encourage cyclists to wear them yet bicycle helmets are covered by the same design rules as motorcycle helmets.

In Victoria last year, a rider’s helmet camera fine was waived after several court appearances.

However, the judge made the ruling to waive Max Lichenbaum’s fine based on the Maurice Blackburn defence argument that the laws were not accessible.

That still leaves the validity of the laws untested in Victoria, further adding to rider confusion.

Police misinterpretation
It all stems from police interpretations of the Australian Design Rule AS1698 on helmets that says nothing can be attached to a motorcycle helmet and that a helmet shell cannot be modified such as by drilling holes.

However, now that helmets do not need to have Australian specification and Euro-approved helmets are allowed, it has heightened confusion among riders.

The UNECE 22.05 rule now includes a clause which effectively places the onus on a manufacturer to ensure that any attachment fitted internally or externally to a helmet is safe, this effectively moves the responsibility to the point of sale.

As Eric says, the rules need to be made clear one way or the other.

NSW, Victorian and South Australian police seem to interpret the AS1698 specification to determine accessories are illegal on the basis they are rigid external projections protruding more than 5mm beyond the helmet shell.

Yet bike cops in all states have cameras and Bluetooth units attached to their helmets. So it’s a case of one law for riders and another for police. Is there any wonder there is not only confusion but some anger among riders!

Lawmakers struggle to keep up
It seems that law makers around the world are at odds on the safety and benefits of helmet technology and are unable to keep up with some of the emerging technologies such as head-up display.

In France, they even ban riders from wearing earphones under their helmets and in some countries a rider’s intercom is only allowed to have one speaker operating.


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