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Cracking Down on the Sale of Unsafe Motorcycle Helmets

Deadly motorcycle accidents are on the rise, with 4,668 fatalities in 2013 alone. While helmets can help riders survive a crash, they are not all created equal. In fact, some motorcycle helmets on the market provide little protection from head injury.

To address this issue, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently proposed new regulations intended to limit the use of “novelty motorcycle helmets,” which the agency notes do not meet federal safety standards for crash protection, but are frequently marketed and sold for on-road use.

In further support of the new rules, the NHTSA cites a study of motorcyclists injured in crashes. It showed that 56 percent of those wearing a novelty helmet had serious head injuries, compared to 19 percent of riders who were wearing a Department of Transportation (DOT) certified helmet.

“Wearing a helmet that meets DOT standards can literally mean the difference between life and death,” said NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind. “Our proposal ensures that when motorcyclists put on a helmet it offers that life-saving protection.”

Due to safety concerns about novelty helmets, motorcycle helmets manufactured after May 2013 are required to have labels containing the manufacturer or brand name, the model designation, the “DOT” symbol, and verification that they are “FMVSS No. 218 Certified.” The new requirements were intended to make decals more difficult to counterfeit, which is common among users of novelty helmets in states where DOT-certified helmets are required.

The latest NHTSA rule proposal establishes that all motorcycle helmets that have the apparent purpose of protecting highway users are subject to the NHTSA’s jurisdiction. The change is intended to boost the NHTSA’s ability to prevent the importation and sale of non-compliant helmets.

The new rules would also create criteria that can be used to identify helmets that do not comply with the federal standard. According to the NHTSA, the additional requirements and the associated test procedures would help motorcyclists and law enforcement officers more readily identify those helmets that likely cannot meet performance requirements. Criteria would include the thickness of the inner liner and the outer shell as well as the liner’s ability to resist deformation, which indicates its ability to absorb crash energy.

If you or someone you love has been seriously injured by a dangerous or defective product, don’t hesitate to contacta San Diego product liability attorney at the Law Offices of Robert Vaage for a free consultation.