Auto Passengers to be Required to Wear Helmets

UPDATE: If you are discovering this article after April Fools Day 2011, don’t, y’know, freak out or anything.

April 1, 2011, 7:40AM ET

The Federal Highway Administration will require that all states either implement helmet laws for drivers and passengers in passenger cars or lose Federal funding for highways.

Head Impact Locations
Head Impact Locations | Photo:

States will have until 2018 to comply with the new regulations.

The new regulations are intended to reduce the number of head injuries that occur as result of car accidents.

In more than 99% of head injuries occurring as a result of car accidents, the victim was not wearing a helmet, according to a study funded by the National Highway Safety Administration.

Tucker Manley, a spokesperson for the Automobile Manufacturers Association, said the American automobile industry will challenge the new regulations in court. "American car makers are already struggling," he said. "This new regulation will hurt sales of new and used cars because it suggests to consumers that cars are unsafe."

Manley suggested that the lobbyists for the powerful sport helmet industry are behind new regulations. "Bell [Sports, Inc.] is going to make millions. They've been wanting people to wear helmets in cars for years, and they've finally found the allies in Washington they've been looking for."

The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute, declined to comment on their lobbying activities, but said that existing standards for snowboard helmets, kayak helmets, skateboard helmets, rollerderby helmets, and bicycle helmets all exceed the new Passenger Vehicle Helmet Standards (PVHS), which will require only that the forehead be protected.

Passenger Vehicle Helmet Standards
Federal Highway Adminsitration Announcement


Prototypes for helmets were on display at the press conference held at the headquarters of the Federal Highway Safety Administration.

The Traffic Safety Association issued a statement welcoming the new regulations.

State seat belt laws and airbag laws are very problematic to enforce. It's difficult for a police officer to see whether all passengers are wearing seat belts, and impossible to tell if the airbags are in working condition. Under the new regulations, it will be immediately evident to law enforcement whether or not all passengers in a vehicle are wearing a helmet.

"It's stupid, " said Henrietta Graham, an operations analyst from Grand Rapids, MI. "I put a lot of care into my professional appearance, and a helmet or whatever is going to ruin my hair," she said. "I only live two miles from work. I might as well commute by bike."

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