The New York Times reports the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has announced new safety labels for motorcycle helmets. The current “D.O.T.” Decal will be replaced with a new sticker reading “D.O.T. F.M.V.S.S. No. 218 Certified” The new design is intended to prevent counterfeit decals on non-compliant “novelty” helmets.
It’s worth noting that, as we understand it, the NHTSA does not test helmets or issue decals, manufacturers are responsible for meeting the D.O.T. F.M.V.S.S. No. 218 specifications, testing, and labeling their helmets on the honor system, though the government can prosecute manufacturers selling helmets that aren’t up to code. Unless the new law specifies some sort of government-produced holographic RFID-chip label, there is no “official” decal, so the use of the word “counterfeit” is strange, it’s a matter of illegally labeling helmets, not a matter of illegally duplicating stickers. A new sticker specification would seem to be a minor inconvenience (at best) to a manufacturer knowingly marketing non-compliant helmets.
It’s also worth noting that there are a variety of helmet tests out there, F.M.V.S.S. No. 218 is one of the less-stringent, though it is the standard minimum requirement for sale/use in the U.S.A. There’s much debate on helmet testing, especially since a 2005 article in Motorcyclist that implied D.O.T. helmets were safer than the highly-regarded Snell standard. While the article made valid points about testing procedures and helmet composition, it also sparked a generation of squids arguing their D.O.T.-approved cheapo half-shell is universally and indubitably safer than a full-face.
When choosing a helmet, there are many factors and safety standards to consider, and any motorcyclist should read articles from a variety of sources and make an informed decision.