NEWS - Changes to Motorcycle Safety Laws

BC FlagThe Minister of Justice announced changes to the Motor Vehicle Act affecting motorcycle helmets and motorcycle passengers. Effective June 1, 2012 all motorcycle riders who are not exempt will have to wear an approved motorcycle helmet that bears approval markings showing that they comply with established standards. In addition, passengers will be required to keep their feet on foot pegs or side boards at all times while seated on a motorcycle. Should a rider not have legs long enough to reach the foot pegs or side boards they will no longer be able to ride a motorcycle legally in the province.

Police will have the authority under the Offence Act to seize helmets that do not conform and hold them as evidence for court proceedings. If the rider does not have an approved helmet to use they may also have the motorcycle towed at the owner's expense. This is not an impoundment, just a removal from the roadway much the same as with a defective vehicle.

The Minister also spoke about changes that will be made to the Graduated Licensing Program restricting the type of motorcycle a new rider may use before they gain experience.

Links:

BC Government press release

Information on the Ministry of Justice web site

Legislation:

Motorcycles

194 (1) A person must not operate a motorcycle on a highway unless seated astride the driver's seat of the motorcycle.

(2) A person, other than the operator, must not ride on a motorcycle on a highway unless

(a) the motorcycle is designed and equipped to carry more than one person,

(b) the other person rides

(i) astride the permanent and regular seat if designed for 2 persons, behind the operator,

(ii) astride another seat firmly attached to the motorcycle behind the seat occupied by the operator, or

(iii) on or in another seat firmly attached to one side of the motorcycle, and

(c) in the case of paragraph (b) (i) or (ii), the other person has both of his or her feet positioned on the foot pegs or floorboards of the motorcycle.

(3) A person must not operate or ride as a passenger on a motorcycle on a highway if the person is not wearing a motorcycle safety helmet that

(a) is designated in regulations under subsection (6) (a) as an approved motorcycle safety helmet, or

(b) meets the standards and specifications prescribed under subsection (6) (b).

(4) A person who is operating a motorcycle must not permit another person under the age of 16 to ride on the motorcycle in contravention of subsection (2) or (3).

(5) Despite subsections (2) and (3), a person under the age of 16 who contravenes subsection (2) or (3) does not commit an offence.

(6) The Lieutenant Governor in Council may make regulations as follows:

(a) designating a helmet as an approved motorcycle safety helmet for the purposes of this section;

(b) prescribing standards and specifications for motorcycle safety helmets;

(c) exempting a person or class of persons from the requirements of subsection (3) and setting out conditions for the exemption.

(7) Without limiting section 210 (7), regulations under subsection (6) of this section may incorporate by reference, with or without modification, in whole or in part, a standard or specification or an approval, certification or designation associated with a standard or specification of or published by a national or international standards association, as amended from time to time before or after the making of the regulation.

(8) Without a warrant, a peace officer may

(a) demand that a person produce a motorcycle safety helmet to allow the peace officer to determine whether the motorcycle safety helmet complies with subsection (3), and

(b) seize the motorcycle safety helmet if, on production of the motorcycle safety helmet, the peace officer has reasonable grounds to believe that a person has contravened subsection (3) or (4).

(9) A person commits an offence if the person obstructs or attempts to obstruct a peace officer acting under the authority of subsection (8).

(10) Except when overtaking and passing other motorcycles, more than 2 operators of motorcycles must not operate their motorcycles side by side in the same direction in the same traffic lane.

Impoundment of motor vehicle

251 (1) If a peace officer has reasonable grounds to believe that a person

(f) has committed an offence under (i) section 194 (1) or (2), the peace officer or another peace officer must

(g) cause the motor vehicle to be taken to and impounded at a place directed by the peace officer, and

Comments

Helmets and the illusion of safety

For many years the helmet legislation in the BC MVA was deficient. It defined a helmet simply as having a hard shell, a crushable liner and a chin strap. The BC Coalition of Motorcyclists' lawyers fought many cases where police officers issued tickets to riders using the "beanie" type helmets.  The point was that since the law was deficient a rider should not be penalised for wearing what was "legal".

When the Justice Minister's department finally addressed these deficiencies in 2012, it was welcome news to the BCCOM. However, research done by the BCCOM lawyers has shown that even the best helmet out there is not really that effective in preventing major injury.

Let's look at a more or less typical motorcycle crash. A rider has fallen from the saddle to the roadway ... perhaps a 1 or 1.5 meter fall? After the initial impact with the roadway, the rider is sliding along the pavement with his or her head bouncing along the hard surface. This is where a helmet offers invaluable protection against concussion and possible fractured shull damage.

However, if the rider puts his or her head into a solid object like a piece of concrete or a vehicle bumper, even the best of helmets will not protect above a 13 kph impact. Further, tests done where a weight was released to impact a helmet showed a $69 beanie actually protected the skull cavity from concussion damage better that the top rated helmets. I've often wondered about the rider with a thousand dollar helmet wearing a bikini and flip-flops.

Let's look at the issue of protective clothing. While there are many guidelines written, the BC MVA is silent on the matter of clothing. Logic tells us that riding in jeans and a T-shirt isn't going to help in preventing road rash but it does raise another interesting issue.

If a helmet is considered to be part of a rider's clothing, then so should the jacket, pants boots and gloves be mandated. Being that they are not, then is a helmet considered as part of the motorcycle equipment? If this is so, regulation would fall under the Federal Government standards for motor vehicles .... and the Provincial legislation has no effect as the federal regulations supercede the Provincial act.

I'm offering these viewpoints to be considered. My personal opinions are that I always wore a helmet even when it was not a requirement to do so. There's many an archival photograph of competition riders 30 ft. in the air wearing a cloth or leather cap.

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