Long awaited helmet law reform part of new National Road Rules

Changes to the model Australian Road Rules that have been agreed following last year’s comprehensive review include welcome reforms that Maurice Blackburn and motorcycling advocates have long called for.

The changes include a raft of positive reforms to lane filtering and helmet laws that are largely thanks to the tireless work and lobbying of the Australian Motorcycle Council, who has long campaigned for clearer and more consistent road rules across the country.

Maurice Blackburn had called for practical, safety-based and nationally consistent motorcycle helmet laws, given the regulations in some States have been impossible to comply with, so we are pleased to see the changes we advocated for being implemented.

What were the issues with the existing law surrounding helmet cams?

Prior to the changes, there was inconsistent regulation and enforcement of motor bike helmet use within and between jurisdictions, which led to poor outcomes for many motorcycle riders. For example, there has been considerable uncertainty in relation to whether use of aftermarket attachments such as helmet cameras and Bluetooth-type communication devices was legal.

On the basis of the interpretation of police and prosecutors in some States, the onus was on motorcycle riders to ensure their helmets continued to meet Australian Manufacturing Standards. But these Standards are designed to regulate manufacturers and were contained in a highly technical document that was only available to the public after payment of a substantial fee.

Even if someone did have access to the Australian Standards, they would have found that it was impossible for them, or a law enforcement officer, to determine whether their helmet complied given how complex the document was and given the standards are geared toward testing at point of manufacture and had no relevance to a helmets continuing fitness for use post manufacture.

These problems were highlighted by the case in Victoria that we won in the Victorian County Court 2016 for a rider who was fined for not wearing an approved motorcycle helmet because it had cameras affixed.

What changes have been included in the new Australian Road Rules?

The new rules are understandable, common sense and importantly, safety-based. They:

  • formalise the use of European helmets certified to UN/ECE 22-05, which provide safer helmets and a more competitive market;
  • provide clarity that standards compliance for helmets is required at the point of manufacture only;
  • remove legal grey areas such as use of dark visors in bright daylight, and the use of communicators and cameras; and
  • provide greater uniformity around rules for lane filtering.

Implementation

The approved changes are to the model Australian Road Rules. There is no (constitutional) power to legislate with respect to Road Rules at the federal level. It is now up to each State and Territory to legislate to implement these changes. Given the prolonged opportunity for input and engagement nationally, our expectation and understanding is that the changes will be adopted nationally in a timely fashion. We will keep you posted as the changes are implemented.

Conclusion

The Stop SMIDSY team are pleased to see these long awaited reforms. As part of our rider advocacy work, we will continue to campaign alongside our partners for safety-based changes including common sense road rules that are understandable and consistent across states.

TOPIC: Smidsy
RELATED LEGAL SERVICES: Motorcycle accidents

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