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The facts on motorcycle helmet safety

Published:Saturday | September 20, 2014 | 12:00 AM

The following is a response from the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing.

Reference is made to a letter titled 'Standardise motorcycle helmets', which was written by Christopher Pryce and was published in The Gleaner dated September 12, 2014.

We thank the writer for drawing attention to this very important aspect of road safety and use this medium to provide some more information on helmets that are acceptable for the Jamaican traffic environment.

The Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing, through the Road Safety Unit, encourages motorcyclists to wear helmets that are consistent with the stipulations under the law. This, therefore, means that the World War II German vintage helmets outlined in your letter would not qualify as one which the ministry would recommend. This type of helmet is not supported by law for the road user (motorcyclist and pillion rider), as it does not provide the necessary protection for the motorcyclists and pillion passengers in case of a collision. These German helmets were not designed to absorb energy at all, which is what determines the survivability in case of a collision.

According to the Road Traffic Act, "Every person shall at all times, while driving or riding on a motorcycle, wear a protective helmet of a prescribed shape, quality, construction or standard." Sections 13 and 15 and Part B of the First Schedule of The Road Traffic (Protective Devices) Regulations 1999 list the approved standards to which all motorcycle helmets must conform and, as such, should be labelled properly.

Motorcycle helmet standards

The ministry, at all times, encourages motorcyclists to acquire motorcycle helmets that are in accordance with the approved standards under the law. They are: the British Standard (BS); Japanese International Standard (JIS); Economic Community of Europe Regulations (ECER) and the Federal Motor Vehicle Standards (FMVS). A motorcycle helmet that meets these standards contains a rigid head covering that consists of a strong, stiff outer shell and a liner. The stiff outer shell must protect the head by distributing the impact throughout the surface of the helmet, and the liner must protect the head by absorbing the energy of the impact in the event of a collision. In addition, motorcyclists are to wear the standardised helmets and ensure that they conform to any of the following types:

1. Provides full covering for the face (full face);

2. Adjustable visor; and

3. Exposes the whole face (open face).

In Jamaica, motorcyclists and passengers (pillion riders) are required to wear a motorcycle safety helmet that meets one of the following safety standards. The public and, by extension, the motorcyclist must ensure that the helmet conforms to these standards at all times, thus ensuring their safety is not compromised. Every helmet should carry a label written in English and should be placed in a manner so that it can be easily read without removing the padding or any permanent part thereof. The information that must be borne by the label is as follows:

a. Standards to which the helmet conform;

b. Name and number of the model; and

c. The material from which it is made and size.

The wearing of standardised motorcycle helmets can reduce the likelihood of brain injury resulting from a collision by as much as 45 per cent.

The ministry is again indeed encouraged that citizens are realising the impact that road fatalities are having on the nation and individuals. However, each person is reminded that road safety is everyone's responsibility, as indeed this is the only way crashes resulting in injuries and fatalities can be brought under control.

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