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Mind your head!

Jess Bennett explains everything you need to know about the new motorcycle helmet safety regulations and why they’re good news for bikers…

Helmets save lives, and lots of them. According to a major study (link) that reviewed a vast library of medical data from around the world, helmets are 42% effective in preventing motorcyclist deaths and 69% effective in preventing brain injuries. When the worst happens and your head needs protection, that advantage can be crucial.

You’ll surely be well aware of the importance of buying from reputable brands with industry standard safety ratings. However, those safety ratings change over time and, in June 2020, the United Nations voted to update the motorcycle helmet regulations for the first time in more than 20 years. So what are the changes and what do they mean for bikers?

jusdevoyage JHwKPOMPhwE unsplash4What is the current standard?
The current standard that affects the UK is ECE 22.05, also known as UN Regulation No. 22. ECE stands for ‘Economic Commission for Europe’ − helmets for the American market, for example, are handled separately.

The standard means a helmet has passed certain safety criteria and can be sold as road legal for European roads. To pass these criteria, a helmet must meet requirements for things such as abrasion resistance, the deformation of a helmet under progressively more load and the effectiveness of quick-release buckles.

Since it was first introduced in 1972, ECE 22.05 has been periodically updated to include new discoveries from technical and medical research. It has been more than 20 years since the last update, the fifth revision, so now the new ECE 22.06 standards will be used. There are also subcategories of helmets and all types are going to be affected by the changes.

What are the changes?
In general, the new standards call for more rigorous testing processes:

Rotational brain injuries are caused by a violent twisting and rotating of the head on impact with the ground. ECE 22.06 will include more thorough impact tests carried out at different speeds, on a variety of surfaces (flat, sloping and kerb-shaped) and at more points across the helmet’s shell.
Modular helmets will now be tested with the chin bar lowered into the locked position (closed) and in the raised position (open). Currently, a modular helmet is only tested with the chin bar closed. Now, modular lids must meet regulations while open too. Open-face helmets do not offer the user chin protection, so they will have to be marked with an image warning that this is the case as a reminder of the potential risks.
Sun shields must be able to be moved separately from the visor and cannot restrain or prevent the movement of the visor.
Reflective stickers will be put on helmets or come included with instructions on where to position them. This is to make motorcyclists more visible at night.
Helmet visors need to meet or exceed regulations after being shot at with a steel ball at a speed of 60 metres per second. This simulates a stone hitting the visor if the motorcycle is travelling at 134mph/215kph. To pass this test, the visor must not fracture, deform or become detached from the helmet.
Accessories will be tested as well to make sure they don’t prevent the helmet or visor from complying with requirements.

What do these changes mean for us?jusdevoyage uzFxqeKUg44 unsplash3
The proposal to approve the new regulations was voted on in June 2020, but the regulations will not come into force until June 2023. It will eventually become illegal to sell helmets that don’t comply with ECE 22.06.

Fortunately, the industry has seen this coming. Many helmet manufacturers will already be compliant with the new regulations, so the more stringent testing shouldn’t result in drastically higher prices for your next helmet.

The new ECE 22.06 regulation is really nothing but good news for motorcyclists. It means safer helmets that have been tested in a wider range of circumstances, and maybe future studies will see those survival statistics get closer to 100%.

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2020 edition of BMF Motorcycle Rider.