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The impact of new lid regs

Helmets are one of the biggest sectors in bike retail and there’s a big change coming in the statutory safety approval regulations surrounding them.

The longrunning ECE 22.05 mark, which has been essential for all helmets used on the road since 2000, is being replaced by a new set of regs – ECE 22.06, logically enough. The mechanics of the new testing regime are being updated to improve the basic levels of safety, and also to adapt to changes in helmet designs. On the safety front, the impact tests used to measure how well a lid absorbs energy in a crash are being upgraded, with a whole new suite of tests examining socalled “rotational” impacts. These have become more important in studies of brain injuries, with the “twisting” forces generated when the head is snapped around violently seeming to cause more serious damage. ECE 22.06 will look at how a helmet transmits these twisting forces in an oblique impact – such as grazing off a kerb or car bonnet in a crash. The “normal” collision tests are also changing, with impacts at different velocities, and at more points on the outer shell. A new slow-speed test measures how a helmet deals with so-called secondary impacts – some helmet designs may perform well at high speeds but their stiffer construction doesn’t absorb as much energy at slower speeds. So the initial head impact in a crash might be mitigated effectively by the helmet but a seemingly less serious follow-up impact, as the rider rolls across the road, can cause injury. 

Finally, the main outer visor faces more stringent testing for impact protection, and road-legal “dark” visors can now be slightly darker (down to 35% from 50%). The tests are also now extended to cover various technical innovations which have become common since 2000.

There are more tests for flip-front helmets, looking at how the chin bar behaves in different positions, and there are also new regs covering internal sun visors – these can be darker but must be used with a clear main visor. ECE 22.06 will also examine helmets with any official accessories fitted – external Bluetooth intercoms, headset speakers and the like – to see if these affect the safety performance of the base helmet in any way.

THREE YEAR TRANSITION

So it’s a fairly serious update of the testing regime. But when will these regulations take effect? And what happens with older 22.05 approved helmets? Well, the ECE body is working on the implementation now, and while there’s no set date, insiders reckon it should be approved this summer. Once the regulation takes effect, there will be a three-year transition while ECE 22.05 helmets can still be sold, to allow old stock to be moved on. After that time, government has the option to ban their sale, but that isn’t a given and will be a decision for Westminster. ECE 22.05 testing won’t be allowed 18 months after the new 22.06 regulations take effect, so manufacturers won’t be able to have 22.05 helmets approved, meaning stocks should decline rapidly anyway. Older ECE 22.05 helmets will remain legal for riders to use, of course. 

Finally, it’s worth noting that the ECE mark has nothing to do with the European Union. It’s actually a part of the United Nations – its full title is the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, with a membership list that includes such decidedly non-European countries as Canada, the United States and Israel. That means Brexit will have no impact on the ECE egulations in this country: there’s no suggestion that the UK will be leaving the ECE, or moving to a BSI Kitemark or anything of that sort. In the UK, the MCIA is working with industry and the ECE on the regulation changes, and is currently holding consultations with its members. 

Christopher Hodder from the MCIA told us how it sees the changes. “The intended impact [of ECE 22.06] is to make motorcycle helmets safer. One of the big issues in injuries is secondary impacts, hence the low-speed and highspeed impact tests. Also, I think that many of the newer innovations such as integral sun isors, Bluetooth systems and flip-fronts are not reflected in the previous regulations and it was probably felt that new innovations need to be checked. “For dealers, it shouldn’t have any immediate impact as older designs will be approved for some time yet and can remain on sale. For end-users, it means that new designs of helmet should offer more protection than older ones.”

MCIA members looking for more information can contact Alice Grant at MCIA Member Services: [email protected]

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