NHTSA cracks down on counterfeit motorcycle helmet labels

Consumer Reports News: May 17, 2011 03:23 PM

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In an effort to reduce the number of motorcyclist deaths and injuries attributed to riders using helmets that don't meet federal safety standards, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has revised its helmet labeling requirements.

Effective immediately, the move is aimed at blunting a recent rise in the popularity of so-called novelty helmets--those caps that look more like a soup bowl rather than a traditional helmet, as worn by the 2012 Honda Goldwing riders shown here. Such novelty helmets do not meet federal safety requirements and are often worn so the rider appears to be conforming to local helmet laws.

Novelty helmets often bear labels similar to those formerly used by the Department of Transportation to identify helmets in compliance with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 218. FMVSS 218 includes tests for impact absorption, penetration resistance, and strap strength. The old stickers were deemed too simple to duplicate, and counterfeits have been widely available. Some riders buy a small, fashionable helmet for well under $100, such as those modeled after military helmets, and affix their own counterfeit sticker. The government has found that helmets evaluated with phony stickers failed all or most of their safety tests.

DOT-Motorcycle-helmet-unsafe.jpgTo reduce counterfeiting and make law enforcement easier, new stickers will include the wording "DOT FMVSS No. 218 Certified," along with the manufacturer name and helmet model.

A NHTSA study found that motorcycle crash fatalities could be reduced by 37 percent if all riders wore a helmet in compliance with FMVSS 218, but use of approved helmets has been on the decline. NHTSA says 54 percent of road riders wore an approved helmet in 2010, down from 67 percent in 2009. Non-compliant helmet use increased to 14 percent from nine percent in the same period. The remaining riders wore no helmets at all.

We support this move wholeheartedly, and we'd like to see all states require riders to wear DOT-compliant helmets.

Learn how to identify an unsafe motorcycle helmet.

See our scooter and motorcycle buying advice, reviews, and Ratings.

Plus, see "Tips on buying and driving a motorcycle or scooter."

Jim Travers

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