Is It Legal To Wear Motorcycle Helmets Bought Overseas?

The Australian Standard used to certify safety for motorcycle helmets is extremely tough and it's expensive for helmet manufacturers to obtain the certification. This has deterred international brands from releasing a wide variety of helmets in the local market. So what happens when you want to buy and use a helmet from overseas? Is it even legal to do so? We find out.

Woman wearing motorcycle helmet image from Shutterstock

For the longest time, Australian motorcycle riders were only able to wear helmets that were certified under the Australian/New Zealand Standard AS/NZS 1698 or approved by the Joint Accreditation System of Australia and New Zealand (JAS-ANZ). Helmets that were legal to wear and, by extension, able to be sold in the country had to have a sticker on the back of them indicating that they comply with the Australian certification.

This put a lot of helmet manufacturers off considering they already had to have their products accredited under widely-recognised standards and meeting the ones that are specific to Australia, a comparatively small market, just didn't seem worth it. Which is why you'll find that Australian motorcycle accessory retailers generally carry a limited range of helmets.

But thanks to the internet and the rise of online shopping, motorcyclists were able to access a wider range of helmets with a swathe of funky designs, although they still ran the risk of being fined if they are caught with ones that don't comply with AS/NZS. There is also the issue of buying a helmet before being able to try it; if it doesn't fit just right then then it wouldn't be safe to use and then there's the hassle of having to send the product back... if there is a refund policy at all. The joys of online shopping.

In recent years, the situation has gradually shifted as Governments in different states began to recognise the consumers' desire to access a bigger range of helmets. Yes, the point of enforcing compliance for helmets is obviously a good thing to protect motorcyclists when they have an accident, but there are global standards that are comparable to AS/NZS 1698, such as the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Regulation No. 22 (UNECE22.05), and there's little reason to exclude those helmets from the local market.

Queensland was one of the first states to accept European standards motorcycle helmets and Victoria followed suit in August last year. NSW has also specified that it is now legal to wear motorcycle helmets that meet the UNECE22.05 (also known as ECE22.05) standard.

More good news for Australian motorcyclists who want more choice in the helmet they have access to came in November last year when the Minister for Small Business Kelly O'Dwyer revoked the part of the national Consumer Law which prohibited the sale of any helmet that doesn't meet the A/NZS Standard. Now retailers are legally allowed to sell helmets that are rated under the UNECE22.05 Standard.

Did you just catch yourself wondering if something was legal or not? Let us know and we may be able to answer it in our next Is It Legal? feature.


Comments

    That's awesome news. Most of the best helmets and designs are from overseas. Also more colourways are available.
    I also imagine some prices could be lower if ordered from overseas if you knew the size you were after
    Thanks Spandas

      Agreed! I'm looking for a new helmet and just can't settle on a design I want from the limited range available. I'm heading overseas next month so hopefully I'll will find a ECE rated one that I like :)

        Keen to upgrade my Shark helmet to a Nexx XR2 Carbon one day. The XR1R is the lightest full face helmet ever made, supposedly.

    I'm pretty sure ACT is coming soon, but can't remember 100% when off the top of my head. Looking forward to being able to afford better helmets in a wider range of styles.

    Frustrated I had to buy a Shark Vision R II (the 1 Carbon was so much better, but I stacked it). JUST before the Bell Bullit were released in Australia.

    Last edited 22/02/16 8:22 pm

    So what happens if I live in a state where UNEC certified helmets are allowed and I go for a ride to a state where they're not allowed? Presumably that's illegal?

    Why aren't traffic laws national?

    So what happens if you buy an ECE22.05 helmet thats legal in NSW, but not legal in ACT? If you cross the border, could there be trouble?

    I bought a Shoei XTwelve from America almost two years ago. Its not ADR approved or its UNECE22.05 Standard. Its DOT and SNELL approved though, so safe enough for my head. I've been pulled over twice. every time i do, before the cop get out of the car. i take my helmet off and put it on the floor or on the left side mirror. they dont even ask me about it.

      That's not to say that you may not one day be asked about it - it falls under discretionary policing. There have been examples where even compliant riders were pinged for making a helmet non-compliant by attaching a go-pro:
      http://www.gizmodo.com.au/2015/09/putting-a-gopro-on-your-helmet-is-illegal-in-victoria-and-nsw/

        ill be worried when i get caught. but im not a smart ass to cops so theyre usually pretty nice to me

    So I'm joining the conversation a bit late and forgive me if I'm repeating something, but I'm an American that will be moving to Melbourne soon for a few years and am just looking for some clarity...

    1) From what I have read, DOT or Snell are considered non compliant correct?
    2) Do the helmet certification laws vary by territory, and if so is there a common standard?
    3) Would you all recommend I just buy a new helmet when I get there or are most police easy going enough for an expat to get by with an American bought helmet? (I'm not partial, rather would just prefer to avoid the expense of buying a new helmet).

      >

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