Peters Proposes New Motorcycle Helmet Safety Rule

U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters yesterday proposed a new rule that she said will improve motorcycle safety by making it easier for riders to identify and use effective helmets, instead of unsafe, "novelty" helmets. The proposal will also make it harder for riders to use novelty helmets in states that require DOT-certified helmets, she said.

"Novelty helmets do little to protect riders during an accident," Peters said. "This proposal will make it easier for riders to know in advance whether the helmet they buy will keep them safe."

The 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. The new labels will make it harder for vendors to remove the labels on safe helmets and affix them to the unsafe novelty helmets.

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.

"As our testing has shown, these 'novelty' helmets do not have the energy absorbing capacity to protect a rider in a highway crash," said David Kelly, acting NHTSA administrator. "A DOT-certified and labeled helmet, as proposed today, will help consumers make more knowledgeable decisions when purchasing a helmet."

The proposed rule will help mitigate the yearly increases in motorcycle fatalities and injuries that have plagued the nation for nearly a decade, Peters said. Fatalities have more than doubled since 1997--increasing by 144 percent. Yet new data indicate that nearly one in five motorcycle riders in states with helmet laws wear a non-compliant helmet.

In 2006, helmets saved an estimated 1,658 lives. If everyone worn a helmet, an additional 752 lives would have been saved, Peters said. During the same year, 4,837 motorcyclists were killed; of those, more than 40 percent weren't wearing helmets, she added.

To download the proposed rule, click here.

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