New NHTSA Helmet Decals

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.

3 thoughts on “New NHTSA Helmet Decals”

  1. WebBikeWorld has more info, including a link to the proposed standard. One change that makes sense: The decal must be applied BEFORE the clear-coating, so the decal would be embedded in the paint of the helmet. That’s smart, and would prevent unscrupulous importers from slapping stickers on any cheapo asian-market novelty helmets they can find, but knowing the ethics of many asian manufacturers, they’ll be all-too-happy to embed a decal under the clearcoat for an extra 30¢ a helmet.

  2. Ha, good question. I don’t care enough to wade through the actual text of the law, but the link is there. Whatever the ‘letter of the law,’ I guess the point is that it needs to be applied permanently to the helmet as part of the manufacturing process, not tagged on later by an importer.

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