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Motorcycle Helmet training ? video

October 19, 2009

Transcript of the 1992 Cop Training video called “Fake Helmets: Unsafe On Any Head” with editorial in red by Richard Quigley. 

This video became un-usable the same year California adopted the state helmet law, because case law in the form of Buhl versus Hannigan declared any visual inspection to determine a helmet’s compliance to be “absurd.”  All that is required is to wear a helmet that was certified at the time of sale. (Helmet with a DOT symbol).
Officer Love in Vacaville saw this video in 2007 and uses it to claim expert witness status in court.  His only testimony on my helmet was incorrect and inadmissable, even tho the Judge allowed it.   Heheheheh


A video produced and distributed by the National Traffic Safety Administration

Transcription and review by the Helmet Law Defense League

On September 13, 1993, John Verissimo of Armona, California, appeared in the King County Municipal Traffic Court, Judge O’Rurke presiding, to answer to one count of an allegation of violating California’s helmet law by wearing a helmet one Sergeant Eggert of the California Highway Patrol didn’t like — a so-called “unapproved helmet.”

Three weeks earlier, Verissimo’s wife, Katherine, had beaten Sgt. Eggert in an identical case presented by Eggert against her; and the good Sergeant was not going to let it happen again.

This time Sgt. Eggert came prepared. This time he had a video tape from NHTSA, which the Judge entered into evidence, and viewed. Apparently this video contained sufficient information to make Judge O’Rurke regard it as expert testimony, at the very least, with regard to the fabrication requirements of a legal helmet.

The strategy worked. In just 12 minutes, that judge had learned enough about helmets to not only find Verissimo guilty, but to allow him to bestow on himself the authority to make a formal determination of noncompliance (with the Federal standard) against Verissimo’s helmet — something even NHTSA can’t do.

A video this powerful just has to be seen to be fully appreciated (the Bell helmet poster in the background is a fairly interesting example). However, reality prevents that in this forum. So, until you get a copy, the following is an exact transcript, with editorial review in italic.

The video opens with a Maryland Police Officer standing outside a conference room. He addresses the camera:

“I’m Corporal Mike Fisher of the Maryland State Police, and today we’re going to discuss a relatively new problem with motorcycle helmets.”

“Many States have recently enacted legislation regarding the use of motorcycle helmets. These laws work. To put it simply, they save lives. But as these laws go into effect, we’ve seen an increase in the number of illegal, unsafe, helmets used by people to circumvent these laws. Today I’m going to show you how to spot these helmets, and the difference between legal helmets and illegal ones.”

(Enters conference room with several police officers in attendance)

“Hi, how is everybody today? Take your seats, we’re about to get started this morning.”

“Today, we’re going to talk a little about motorcycle helmets. I think it’s interesting to note that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that compared to a helmeted rider, a non-helmeted rider is about 40% more likely to incur a fatal head injury, and about 50 % more likely to incur a non-fatal head injury, when involved in a crash. From 1984 through 1990, it’s estimated that helmet use saved the lives of over 4,740 motorcyclists. If, during those years, everyone on a motorcycle had worn a helmet, that includes both the operator and the passenger, approximately the same number of additional lives could have been saved.” (The old-timers will remind you that figures can lie, and liars can figure. With that in mind . . .)

“Per mile, a motorcyclist is about 20 times more likely to die in a crash that an automobile occupant.”

“I have some photos for you this morning from the California Highway Patrol, that shows the severity of some of these accidents (passes out photos). We know that helmet use adds a margin of safety that is critical.”

“When it comes to motorcycle helmets, there are two aspects of enforcement for the police officer; first, helmet use laws must be enforced; and, second, motorcyclists must wear helmets which meet, or exceed, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 218, which establishes minimum performance requirements. Helmets which do not meet this standard are illegal, and useless in protecting a motorcyclist from head injury — which is by far the leading cause of death in motorcycle accidents.”

“Now, here’s a real obvious question: Why do people wear unsafe helmets?”

“Many bikers are philosophically opposed to helmet laws, and when they ride in a state that requires helmet use, they pick up cheap helmets so they¹ll have something, anything, to wear on their heads, to avoid being pulled over . . . obviously in the belief that a police officer cannot visually tell if a helmet is illegal. (This whole statement wreaks of accusations of defiance — accusing “bikers” of trying to fool the police and circumvent the law. The officers are being trained to see bikers as challenging them.)

There are large annual biker rallies held in states like Florida and New York — states that require helmet use. In an effort to circumvent the Federal Safety Standard, many manufacturers of illegal, unsafe, helmets sell them as novelty items at these rallies. These helmets do not meet the Federal requirement. It’s interesting to note that these fake novelty helmets often sell for the same price as a legitimate helmet.”

(Just look how far those bikers will go. For the same money . . . they could obey, rather than defy, the law.)

“The style of the novelty helmets are popular with bikers, like the German Army design, or the style seen in the movie Easy Rider. (You do remember that movie, don’t you. You know, loose young women, choppers, drugs and drug dealing, etc.) Although there are innocent people who do not know that they are not protected by this type of helmet, we suspect that most people who wear these helmets know that they are illegal and unsafe, but wear them anyway.” (Never mind probable cause, the rights of the innocent, or any of that other constitutional crap, . . . just get those bikers in line.)

“The examples we are going to talk about are examples of the most obvious and clear-cut cases of unsafe helmets.”

“Now: What is the difference in safety?

The difference in the protection offered by a helmet that meets the U. S. Department of Transportation safety standard, and the cheap fiberglass helmets that do not, is like night and day . . . and it’s been proven over and over. Actual accident cases show a lesser likelihood of a fatality if the motorcyclist is wearing a helmet that meets the D-O-T Standard.”

“There is a case in Boyten Beach, Florida, where a woman was killed wearing an illegal helmet. These photographs show the illegal helmet she was wearing (pictures of a German-style helmet). A  D-O-T Standard helmet would have improved her chances for survival.”

“What are some ways to identify illegal helmets?

The real proof comes from placing the helmets side by side. Just by looking at the difference in thickness and substance, you can tell which one is an illegal helmet. We’ll get into the specifics in a moment, but for now . . . let’s talk about style. Style is the best way to visually identify a potential fake.”

“The people that are wearing them are betting that you can’t spot them, but in fact you can. Look for one of the common design profiles we talked about earlier; the German Army-style, the skull cap design. You should know that there are certain helmets in these styles that are legal, and we’ll take a look at one in a moment. However, these styles (holding what looks like E&R) are still the most popular among the illegal helmets. They’re essentially nothing more than something to cover the head.”

“The D-O-T Standard does not allow anything to extend further than 2/10 of an inch off the helmets surface, so visor fasteners is allowed, while a spike or something similar is not.”

“A cheap unsafe helmet will be noticeably thinner than one that meets the D-O-T Standard (he says while handing a half-shell helmet, with a 1/4 pie cut removed, to one of the officers). If the helmet is just a thin shell, chances are it does not provide the required protection.

“What are some other ways to identify illegal helmets?”

“The helmet’s labelling is extremely important. The first thing to check for is the D-O-T label. Remember, the United States Department of Transportation does not approve helmets; it simply sets the standard and checks compliance. Helmet manufacturers are required to certify that the helmets they make meet the standard. They do that by placing a label on the outside of the helmet that says “D-O-T”. Each manufacturer has a different way of labelling, so look carefully.”

“However, many fake helmets are sold with loose D-O-T labels. Often the labels are sold separately, or given to the customer to put on the helmet they buy. Here is an example of an illegal helmet with a D-O-T label (pointing to a tiny half-shell helmet with a D-O-T label).”

“So, the second thing you should check is the inside labelling. Federal law requires that the manufacturer place a label or marking somewhere on or in the helmet that states the manufacturer’s name, model size, month and year of manufacture, construction materials and owner information (as he shows a label in a helmet [which says “Made in Canada”]). It’s detailed, and often sewn into the helmet lining. Illegal helmets usually don’t have such a label because the manufacturer figures that the label on the outside will be enough to fool police. However, not often, but sometimes, an otherwise legal helmet is missing some of this labelling; so, labelling is not a conclusive way to spot an illegal and unsafe helmet.”

(What? Maybe I’m a little slow; but, didn’t he say to check the labeling because bikers may be trying to circumvent the law, but, labelling is not a conclusive way to spot an illegal helmet, but, if the label is sewn in, maybe it’s OK, but, maybe someone’s just trying to fool the police, but, . . .WHAT?!)

“The third and most important element to check is the thickness of the inner-liner. The inner-liner must provide a certain level of impact resistance, or about one inch of hard poly-styrene foam. The inner liner won’t always be visible, sometimes it’s incased in a shell, sometimes you’ll have to push the foam padding aside; but, it’s there, and you should be able to feel it.

“Fake helmets usually have some soft foam padding for comfort, or a bare plastic shell with no foam at all. Inspect a good helmet against a bad one, and it will become immediately clear which have impact resistance, and which ones do not.”

“Does a D-O-T label on the back of the helmet and proper inside labelling prove that the helmet is OK?”

“This is important. Just because there is a D-O-T label, and inside labelling, does not prove that the helmet meets the D-O-T Standard. We mentioned the phoney D-O-T stickers that often come with these helmets, some manufacturers of unsafe helmets also fake the inside labelling . . . they will meet some of the inside labelling requirements, but not all. The tie-breaker is usually the thickness of the inner-lining, and also the chin-strap.”

“Most fake helmets also have a very flimsy chin-strap with poor rivets. Always check to see if the helmet has a sturdy chin-strap.”

“The best way to tell quickly if a helmet meets Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 218, is to become familiar with brand names, and the overall feel of a legal helmet (now showing a full-face helmet) . . . they feel heavier. Depending on design, and style, fake helmets weigh about a pound or less . . . the real thing weighs about three pounds.” (We heard about a helmet law enforcer, somewhere around the Bakersfield area, who is actually using a hand-held fish scale to weigh helmets.)

“By the way, we’ve never seen a novelty helmet with a full-face design.”

(Up to this point, I thought a “novelty helmet” was a helmet which did not meet FMVSS 218, but, that can’t be so, because I have a list of several full-face design helmets which did not meet FMVSS 218. So, now the question goes beyond what is a fake helmet to what is a “novelty helmet”?)

“Also, get to know what poly-styrene foam looks and feels like. If there’s a thick inner-liner of it, that’s another clue that the helmet is OK (holding a Monarch German-style with a 1/4 pie shape removed).

(I think he was holding the actual model that failed FMVSS 218 testing.)

Also, as we mentioned, look at the chin strap

(while yanking on the chin strap of the Monarch),

if it’s thick and riveted, that’s a good sign.”

“There are also stickers inside and outside many helmets that show approval by Snell, and/or the American National Standards Institute known as “ANSI”. These are private organizations that test helmets for safety, and give a seal of approval to those that pass.” (Snell and ANSI “seals of approval” are not a part of the D-O-T standard, so this whole discussion is a waste of time.)

“We have never seen a fake helmet with a phoney D-O-T sticker, and a phoney inside label, and a phoney Snell or ANSI sticker. Again, it’s just too much effort for illegitimate manufacturers.” (A total waste of time.)

“Are the German Army-style helmets always illegal?” (as he moves to again pick up the Monarch)

“No, there are several kinds of German Army-style helmets that are perfectly legal, and meet the D-O-T standards . . . and, you can tell the real one from the fake one the same way. Put them right next to each other, and you can see the difference (now he has a cut-away helmet in each hand). The legal one is going to be thicker, heavier, with a better chin strap, with all the appropriate labelling, and with a thick poly-styrene inner-liner . . . it may be a brand name. If you¹ll just compare each one side-by-side, you can tell which one is legal, and which one is fake . . . and, therefore unsafe.” (I guess officers should always carry an extra helmet, preferably with a 1/4 pie cut out of it, so they can do a side-by-side comparison — in the same Helmet Law Enforcement Kit that contains the band-saw and scale.)

“Let’s summarize the ways in which you can identify a fake helmet. First, check for a D-O-T label on the back of the helmet

(remembering that fake helmets often time have fake DOT stickers);

second, check the inside labelling

(remembering that fake helmets often time have fake inside labelling);

third, check the thickness of the inner liner

(a job for your trusty band-saw);

and forth, check for a sturdy chin strap and rivets.”

“The biggest problem is the obvious case of an illegal helmet being worn to get around helmet use laws. (No, the biggest problem is the attitude which alleges curcumvention in the absence of any factual evidence.)

It’s pretty easy to tell a fake helmet when you know what you’re looking for.”

“Each year, more helmet laws go into effect, and that means that more and more of these phoney helmets will be out there.”

“Remember, legitimate helmets save lives. It’s worth the effort to get the fake helmets off the street.”

“This concludes our training, thanks for coming.”


(roll credits)

Now that you’ve read the book, if you want to see the movie, the law firm of Jacobson and Hupy will make copies of the video available, at no charge, to any interested motorcyclist rights groups. To get one for your chapter, local, or group;

contact Tony Sanfelipo at 1-800-800-5678 and he will be happy to make the necessary arrangements.


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