Mandatory Gear Laws: Who Really Wins?

PSB helmets in Singapore

Here’s a statistic you wouldn’t want to take home to mom – 60% of people who died on Singapore’s roads last year were motorcyclists or pillion riders. Preventing biker heads from cracking open is the intention behind Singapore’s legislation on helmet safety standards, which allow only PSB approved helmets to be sold or used here. This isn’t a new law, and most agree that one like it is needed to deter people from using cheap, unsafe or counterfeit helmets. But it has also raised hackles among those who believe that the rule should be adjusted to accommodate helmets that have already passed stringent international standards like SNELL and ECE. 

Critics of the law feel that subjecting internationally-certified helmets to duplicative PSB testing is a costly, pointless hurdle that adds no value to businesses nor motorcyclists. Up to 4% of helmets in an imported batch must be destroyed in the testing process, on top of the test fees, and subsequent batches of the same model must be tested anew. For some smaller businesses this kills the viability of importing premium brands, reducing the choices of safe, internationally-certified helmets available to local riders. Why does range of choice matter? Because we all know that beyond the crash-worthiness of a helmet, there are other things that make it safe. Weight, fitment, sun visor, peak – rider head shapes, usage scenarios and personal preferences vary widely. An uncomfortable helmet is a dangerous helmet, because it distracts. 

On the other hand, supporters of the ruling believe that it can only be as effective as the ability to enforce it, and having just one PSB label for officers to look out for would simplify matters. Testing every batch of imported helmets would also be a failsafe way to weed out cheap, unsafe imitations. 

As with any attempt to modify human behavior, the outcomes are not so straightforward. When authorities announced plans for stiffer penalties against those selling or using non-PSB helmets, some riders left their Arai, Airoh and Biltwells on the shelves and rode out with cheaper, lower quality, PSB-stamped helmets.

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Royal Enfield Singapore

While owners of premium, safe, non-PSB helmets continue to bristle at the thought of being penalised for doing exactly what the law intended to achieve, let’s hit a criminal pause for a light-hearted look at the broader global picture. Looking at one law in isolation does nobody any favours; there’s a whole deck of cards that needs to be thoughtfully stacked together to keep us riding back home safely each day. And if a card is slightly askew, ought we not to fix it?

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