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.