Many riders like to get into the holiday spirit by wearing Santa, elf, Elmo or reindeer novelty helmet covers.
However, they could be a safety hazard, they may void your insurance and some police say they may be illegal.
Safety aspects of novelty covers
While novelty helmet covers may be fun and potentially protect your helmet from dust, scratches and chips, they could also be a safety hazard.
They can come loose and obscure your vision or become a choking hazard, especially at high speeds.
Most suppliers recommend they not be worn on the highway, but only at city speeds.
Since most are only worn in charity parades, speed should not be an issue.
But be aware that they can reduce ventilation which would make them stiflingly hot on a summer’s day in a slow-moving toy run procession.
They may also suppress important surrounding noises such as emergency sirens or the sound of screeching tyres.
Legal aspects of novelty covers
While we cannot find any legal reference in the Australian Road Rules to these novelty covers, police can still issue a ticket if they believe it is an offence.
So we contacted them for their interpretation of the road rules.
VicPol say it is “not possible to provide a blanket yes or no answer to your query, as it must be assessed on an individual basis”.
They suggest the following points could impact on the compliance:
The correct fitment is highly unlikely as the covers are “one size fits all’ and not manufactured for specific brand / model helmets.
The cover has the potential to impede vision through the visor when fitted or whilst travelling.
The cover may prevent the rider from securing the helmet correctly through the helmet buckle.
The cover has the potential to move / fall off at speed.
Queensland and South Australia police say novelty helmet covers are legal:
Novelty helmet covers are not illegal, as long as the rider is wearing a motorcycle helmet that complies with Australian standards and is securely fastened. Riders will need to ensure that the novelty cover does not obscure their vision.
WA Police did not respond, but the Western Australia Road Safety Commission says riders are already vulnerable road users and “wearing gear that might potentially make it harder for riders to spot other road users would not improve this situation”.
ACT Police say they would “take action against the user of the helmet cover if it contributed to an incident or collision (for example, if the cover impeded the vision of a rider)”.
“It is concerning to police that the manufacturers openly identify significant risks to the user of the product on their website,” they say.
Since most riders wear novelty helmets as part of a fund-raising or at least fun-raising ride, it would be a particularly belligerent Scrooge cop who fined a rider over a helmet cover!
Speaking of Scrooges: If you crash while wearing a novelty helmet cover, your insurance company may use it as an excuse to void your policy.
More riders can now wear helmet cameras and bluetooth intercom attachments and fit tinted visors after South Australia joined the ACT in formal acknowledgement of 2015 changes to the Australian Road Rules (ARR).
“I’m not aware of anyone in NSW being booked for having a camera or communication device on their helmet for a couple of years,” Brian says.
South Australian Ride to Review spokesman Tim Kelly says the state accepted their submission to accept the ARR.
Hew says it means the requirements for adherence to a helmet standard “become point-of-sale only”.
“This means helmet attachments will become legal, tinted visors will become legal and MX sun visors will become legal,” he says.
The only amendment to the ARR was the inclusion of a reference to a helmet being in good repair and proper working order and condition.
In 2017, Adelaide rider Erica Aria went to the Sturt Police Station to submit video of drivers cutting him off in traffic but instead received an official warning for an “illegal helmet camera”.
The police said he could cop a $450 fine if he was caught again with the camera.
Eric has now welcomed the changes to the state rules.
“At least now people know if they can legally wear them or not and there’ll be no double standards with police wearing them and not the riders who genuinely need the camera for safety and insurance reasons,” he says.
Brian says the NSW Centre for Road Safety did some “oblique impact testing” at Crashlab several years ago on the effect of helmet attachments.
It has been suggested that they can rotate the rider’s head in a crash, causing neck injuries.
However, the Centre’s report on this testing is yet to be released.
“It should eventually be released, we just don’t know when,” Brian says.
The Centre told us they had completed three sets of tests on attachments fitted to motorcycle helmets:
The final series of tests were completed earlier this year.The results and recommendations from the tests are currently been reviewed and a report is expected to be published in 2020.
Brian points out that in the ACT it is legal to have a camera or communication device on a helmet provided that the mount is ‘frangible’ which means it easily breaks off in a crash.
“What constitutes a frangible mount is not defined,” Brian says.
“Hopefully, the CfRS report will give guidance on this.
“The NSW Police wear cameras and communication devices on their helmets.
“I believe they have done their own oblique impact testing at Crashlab. They use a 3M product called Dual Lock.
“I believe Dual Lock was part of the CfRS testing. However, there are several versions of Dual Lock. I don’t know which one or ones have been tested.”
Arai says the award was vindication of their “achievement in contributions to the safety of many riders and numerous advancements to motorcycle sports over many years”.
“Understanding the reason for this award, Arai Helmet continues to make helmets without compromise for the sake of rider protection since the company’s founding as the first motorcycle helmet manufacturer in Japan,” their official press release states.
“It’s not an exaggeration to say these contributions are recognised around the world by the granting of this award.”
The company began was formed in 1926 by Hirotake Arai as a hat making company and was the first Japanese company to make motorcycle helmets in 1950.
By the way, if you are wondering why a Y-shaped item with three legs is named the Frog, it is apparently named after the Brazilan Brachycephalus tridactylus frog which is the only frog in the world with only three legs.
A tiny little piece of plastic has just made universal-fit MotoSafe earplugs from Dutch company Alpine Hearing Protection even better.
With the new minigrip they are now just that little bit easier to pull out, extending the life of the earplugs.
We have written on many occasions about the importance of earplugs. Basically they make you more relaxed, less weary, more alert and save your hearing, all at the same time.
We’ve tried many different earplugs, including personalised moulded plugs which are very effective, but can leave you feeling disoriented like you are underwater.
MotoSafe plugs are cheaper, more convenient (no need for a fitting because they fit all ears) and more comfortable, even when riding all day with a tight helmet. Since there is no silicone in the material, they also don’t get sweaty or itchy.
Turbulence generated at high speeds can reach 103dB which is why all racers wear foam plugs to block out all sound.
The filter in MotoSafe blocks damaging high-frequency wind noise, but still allows you to hear important sounds such as sirens, horns and screeching tyres.
Meanwhile, it still allows you to hear “pleasant sounds” such as your music, phone conversation, GPS turn prompts and your bike’s exhaust note!
However, we have damaged a couple of sets in the past trying to pull them out.
They come with a small black plastic applicator which you use to push them all the way in until you hear an air seal. (Make sure to wet the plug first!)
To remove them, reverse the applicator and dig underneath the plug to break the seal, then grab the filter and gently pull them out.
The previous plug design had a short filter and you sometimes had to twist them to get them out, breaking the filter in the process!
Now the minigrip prevents that issue and makes them just that little bit better.
They come in black (Tour) which reduces noise by 27dB or red (Race) which provides 30dB of noise filtering. I use the red ones all the time; even when just heading out to the shops.
In Australia, about four million people have hearing loss. In the UK it’s 10 million and in the US, some 48 million have some form of hearing loss.
While hearing loss is a part of the natural ageing process, it is increased by prolonged exposure to excessive noise and riders are more than likely to experience greater hearing losses in their senior years.
I not only have profound hearing loss, but, like about 30% of the population, I also suffer from tinnitus (ringing in the ears).
These conditions have developed from years of motorcycle riding, as well as playing in rock bands, going to concerts and listening to loud music.
The ringing is so bad it sometimes wakes me at night.
It’s not actually motorcycle exhaust or engine noise that cause the biggest problem, but wind noise, according to the American Industrial Paramedic Services.
That’s why riders should have some form of hearing protection whenever they ride, especially on long trips. Any earplug is better than no earplugs.
How long can you ride without risk of hearing damage?
Average volume of wind noise under a helmet
Maximum time without risk of hearing damage
If you don’t think you can get hearing loss or tinnitus from riding because you wear a full-face helmet, you’re wrong.
Dutch magazine Promotor tested the noise levels in 10 different “system” (modular or flip-up) helmets at varying speeds and found some startling results.
The best result was 86dB at 50km/h which proses a risk of permanent hearing damage after just two hours of riding.
At 100km/h, the same helmet registered 100dB which is more noise than a hammer drill at 95dB.
At the other end of the spectrum the worst performing helmet registered 92dB at 50km/h which is comparable to a train speeding past.
At 100km/h it registered 106dB, which is louder than the noise of a chain saw or a disco.
While full-face helmets are quieter, they are not substantially quieter, especially if you ride with the visor open on hot summer days.
Alpine MotoSafe earplug filters reduce noise at different levels for different frequencies.
For the technically minded, the Tour plugs reduce bass sounds around 63Hz by 6.6dB and 8000Hz treble sounds by 16.12dB which is wind noise at 50km/h.
The maximum amount of protection is in the harsh and harmful midrange of 2000-4000Hz where the noise suppression is 23.8-18.5dB.
The Race plugs drop bass frequencies 15.7dB, midrange by 26.1 and treble by 19.7dB.
Reduction in noise may vary from ear to ear, depending on fit, with a variation of 2.8 to 4.4dB.
This data was tested according to European standard EN 352-2: 2002.
Mind you, that didn’t stop him winning the 2019 Kenneth A Stonex road safety award after advocating wire rope barriers, lower speed limits, mandatory hi-vis rider vests and mandatory electronic rider aids.
Honda smart helmet
It’s not just Taiwanese science students who think this helmet tech is the answer.
So, you want to ride a sport bike. Unlike cruisers, sport bikes are made for rapid acceleration. They’re fun and exciting to drive, but they can also be challenging to ride at first. To make sure you stay safe, comfortable and in control, here’s a list of everything you need to get started, fromsport bike wheel accessories to protective gear.
When it comes to sport bike accessories, wheel spacers are often overlooked. However, they can make changing your wheels a quicker and easier process. Look for push-in interlocking wheel spacers that won’t move around.
Multi Tool Kit
Hauling your entire motorcycle kit is impractical when you’re riding a sport bike. After all, you don’t have a lot of space to store things and you don’t want to add too much weight to your ride. Pocket-sized multi tool kits can help you stay prepared without bulking you up or weighing you down. Look for tool kits that include basic open-ended wrenches, socket driver, spoke wrenches and screwdrivers.
When riding a sport bike, it’s imperative to wear a quality helmet. Choose a full-face option that offers maximum protection. You may also want to select a helmet with Bluetooth integration technology. Good sport bike helmets are designed to be aerodynamic, comfortable and secure. This is an area where splurging a little is worth it to ensure your safety and your confidence on your bike.
Sport bike riders don’t wear leather suits just to look cool. When you’re traveling at high speeds, loose clothing can cause significant drag. A close-fitting suit can help you remain aerodynamic. It also blocks the wind and keeps you comfortable and dry in all types of weather. Leather suits also offer superior skid protection if you happen to lose control of your bike.
If you do any fast riding in cold weather, your hands will feel the chill first. Heated gloves can keep your hands warm and dry so you can maintain optimum control of your bike in cold weather.
A good pair of durable boots is a must-have for any sport bike rider. Look for a pair with straps or buckles instead of laces. You don’t want to risk having your laces come undone and get caught on your bike during your ride. If you plan to do any cold-weather riding, you should purchase a pair of boots with insulation so your toes don’t freeze.
Although they don’t do much to enhance the safety or performance of your bike, rim strips can make your bike flashier. They are sport bike wheel accessories that have a huge impact on how you look. For the most notable effect, choose rim strips that are brightly colored and complement your bike’s paint job. Rim strips are easy to install and can be removed if you grow tired of them or want to switch colors.
Nothing compares to the speed and freedom a sport bike can offer. With the proper accessories and protective gear, you’ll be ready to confidently ride your sport bike in no time.
“Asking a police officer at the local cop shop hasn’t shed any light. He was just guessing at the answer and gave the safe answer of ‘no’ but to ask VicRoads,” he says.
“I’m trying to find out if it is a clear cut black and white NO to sticking anything to your helmet, or if it’s still open to interpretation depending on the policeman or under review for clarification.
“If it’s still a grey area, then I am prepared to risk a fine and increase my safety by testing the unit.”
Illegal in some states
Our understanding is that Victorian and South Australian police still believe it is illegal to attach anything to a helmet by any means, while NSW Police have held off issuing fines until Australian helmet rules are homogenised across all states.
That could take some time.
Meanwhile, Raphael and other supporters of this safety device to avoid being rear-ended are in a legal abyss.
The device is similar to the Smart Brake Light that we sell on our website because we believe it is a key safety feature.
However, that does not affect the compliance of helmets.
We asked police and relevant departments in all states for their advice on whether Raphael would be fined for wearing the helmet.
A few replied and none was particularly certain.
Queensland Police HQ flat out refused to give legal advice. That’s strange since their officers give legal advice when they issue a fine!
How can a police officer on patrol confidently issue a ticket? How can they possibly have more knowledge on all the relevant road rules and laws than police HQ and relevant transport departments?
On both issues, most police say that so long as the attachment doesn’t interfere with the function or safety of the helmet it can be attached.
But how do we know it won’t affect the safety of the helmet?
Safety experts say helmets are designed so that in a crash and slide, nothing will catch on the ground and rotate your head, leading to neck injuries. But there is no empirical evidence to prove it does adversely affect safety.
Victorian Police were the sole objectors to Santa and other novelty helmet covers.
On the issue of the brake light, they said helmets must comply to the Australian Standards.
“As far as I am aware (the standards) do not allow for the attachments to motorcycle helmets to be made,” the spokeswoman said.
South Australia police said it was an ADR issue, but the brake light is not attached to the bike, so how could that affect helmet compliance?
Western Australia police flick-passed it to the light manufacturer to work with each helmet manufacturer to ensure that the helmet remains legal according to Australian Standards when the light is attached.
That’s virtually impossible. Do they know how many helmet manufacturers there are in the world!
WA police say you cannot alter the structure of an approved helmet by drilling holes, placing stickers or painting a helmet.
“So sticky adhesive pads for accessories are dependent on the quality of the helmet,” they say.
Our answer is “user beware”!
If you’re like Raphael, you may think your safety is more important than risking the off-chance of a fine.