Sunday, February 10, 2008

Is my helmet legal?

I was bored, snowed-in, and looking for something to keep my feeble mind occupied, so I started reading through the various acts and regulations here in New Brunswick that relate to motorcycling. Wasn't really searching for anything specific, but I was curious about the legality of ape-hangers as I've often wondered if gripping the handlebars two feet above your head made any sense. Well, I didn't find anything specific to ape-hangers (if someone else knows, please point it out), but I did come across something rather strange regarding helmets, and I'm still trying to figure it out!

According to Section 229 of the Motor Vehicles Act:
"No person shall drive a motorcycle or ride thereon as a passenger unless he is wearing a helmet protection for his head which helmet conforms with the standards prescribed by regulation."

No big surprise there, as all ten provinces and three territories have mandatory helmet laws. But given all the hooplah lately about Snell vs. DOT vs. ECE, I was curious about which standard applied; so the next logical step was to see what the regs specified as prescribed standards, right? Well, that's where it gets confusing. In the General Regulations to the Motor Vehicles Act, Section 38, it reads:
A helmet worn by a motorcycle rider shall
(a) be a helmet of a kind that has been approved by the Equipment Approval Division of the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA), or
(b) conform with the standards set out in CAN3-D230-M85[ID#710], "Protective Headgear in Motor Vehicle Applications", prepared by the Canadian Standards Association, including any amendments, additions or deletions made subsequently to it, or any subsequent editions of it, and shall bear the following label: (image of CSA approval label)

Now, a quick search of the AAMVA website lead me to the following information:
"Many years ago, AAMVA conducted a program to approve vehicle-related safety equipment, including motorcycle crash helmets. AAMVA's equipment approval program was discontinued in the early 1980s.

AAMVA continued certifying laboratories that conduct vehicle equipment testing until 1994. Both programs are now conducted independently by a private organization, not affiliated with AAMVA, called the Automotive Manufacturers Equipment Compliance Agency, Inc. (AMECA)."

Therefore, Section 38(a) of the General Regulations is invalid, other than as a grandfather clause for helmets purchased when the AAMVA still conducted equipment compliance testing.

Which brings us to Section 38(b). Those of you who (like me) have been riding for some time probably remember the CSA tags that used to be in many helmets sold in Canada. Of course, you don't find those anymore... because CSA stopped certifying helmets over a decade ago! So this would effectively render 38(b) invalid also, except as a grandfather clause for older helmets. But really, if your helmet is 10+ years old, maybe you should be thinking of getting a replacement soon, eh?

So I called up the NB-DOT, which gave me the run around and told me to call the NB Safety Council. Spoke to a nice lady there, who seemed quite confused by my call and referred me to the NB-Dept. of Public Safety. There I left about 3 messages at various numbers. Didn't get a callback yet.

So my question is this: If, in New Brunswick, I must wear a helmet because it's the law, and that helmet must conform to either of two standards that no longer exist, do I really have to wear a helmet at all?

Anyhow, just fighting a bout of cabin fever and my mind tends to amuse itself with these useless arguments.


Anonymous said...

Please don't confuse the bureaucrats.

Thank you,
Your Government

Lucky said...

As much as I sometimes hate to admit it... I AM a bureaucrat!