Bye-bye Beanie

May 1 2012

British Columbia kicked off its Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month yesterday with the announcement of new laws aimed at reducing motorcycle crashes, injuries, and death.

The new regulations, which can be enforced starting on June 1, require motorcyclists to wear helmets that meet either DOT, Snell (2005 or 2010), or ECE standards. By making these established helmet safety standards mandatory, the government is hoping to rid the streets of novelty helmets, skull caps and beanies.

Also included in the updated regulations is the requirement that riders and passengers must keep their feet on the motorcycle’s foot rests at all times. Only the rider is allowed to remove his feet from the pegs, and only when the motorcycle is stopped. This means that younger (or much shorter) passengers who aren’t able to reach the foot pegs will no longer be legally allowed to ride on the back of a motorcycle in British Columbia.

A contentious part of yesterday’s announcement was the official change made to the licence plates used on motorcycles registered in British Columbia. To make the plates easier for police to read, the font size has been increased by 0.95 centimetres (3/8 of an inch). The modified plate format actually began to be phased in during May 2011; every new plate issued since then already features the larger font.

Shirley Bond, British Columbia’s Minister of Justice and its Attorney General, stated that the province intends to implement graduated licensing in the future that includes power restrictions. The licensing changes will take effect once additional consultation with industry experts has determined the best model for the new law.

Also part of the Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, B.C.’s Office of Motor Vehicles, and its insurance entity ICBC, will partner on an awareness campaign to “ensure automobile drivers are aware of how to drive safely when they encounter motorcycles on the road.” The details of this campaign including its scope were not included in the province’s press release.

Official stats provided by the province revealed that there are roughly 2,200 motorcycle crashes each year in B.C., which result in around 42 rider deaths. The province claims that motorcycles make up only three percent of insured vehicles on B.C. roads, but they account for 10 percent of road fatalities. “Motorcyclists are eight times more likely to be killed and 40 per cent more likely to be injured in a crash than other road users,” stated the government’s information release. In the last five years 203 motorcyclists have lost their lives on B.C.’s roads, 5,172 have been injured, and fatalities have increased by 57 percent between 1996 and 2010.

  The details of B.C.’s new motorcycle safety law (June 1, 2012)

1. Helmet Safety Standards:

All motorcyclists and motorcycle passengers in B.C. must wear a motorcycle helmet that meets one of the following safety standards:

DOT – Also known as FMVSS 218, conforms with the U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 218.

Snell M2005 or Snell M2010 – In accordance with the Snell Memorial Foundation 2005 or 2010 Standard for Protective Headgear for Use with Motorcycles and Other Motorized Vehicles.

ECE – In accordance with the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe ECE Regulation No. 22.

The safety helmet must display the proper certification label. Full-face helmets and visors are not required and riders are free to choose any helmet colour they prefer. However, eye protection and brightly-coloured helmets are strongly recommended to help prevent collisions, injuries and fatalities.

Uncertified, novelty “beanies” do not meet the requirements.

Fines for all new helmet related offences are $138. Refusing an officer’s demand to produce a helmet carries a $276 fine.


2. Seating Requirements:

The operator of a motorcycle must be seated astride the driver’s seat. Passengers must be seated behind the operator astride the passenger’s seat with their feet on foot pegs or the floorboards at all times (even when the motorcycle is stopped – e.g., at an intersection), or be properly seated in a side car.

The operator is responsible for ensuring passengers younger than 16 years of age are properly seated. Any passengers, including children who cannot reach the foot pegs or floorboards, are not permitted to ride as passengers.

Fines for violating seating requirements range from $109 to $121 or vehicle impoundment, if considered stunting. Failing to use foot pegs and permitting a passenger to be unlawfully seated both come with a $109 fine.


3. Licence Plate Improvements:

Since May 2011, ICBC has been issuing motorcycle licence plates with larger font. Font size has increased 0.95 centimetres (3/8 of an inch) to assist law enforcement with identifying the vehicle.

Existing plates can be upgraded to a plate with larger font by contacting ICBC.

The fine for an improper display of a licence plate or an illegible licence plate has increased to $230 from $196.

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