You may have just learned about the incredible benefits of Bluetooth motorcycle helmets, and you want to get one for yourself. But you are worried if they are legal, considering that earphones are illegal in some states. Are Bluetooth motorcycle helmets legal or not?
The legal status of Bluetooth motorcycle helmets differs from state to state. So it’s essential to determine the laws on Bluetooth helmet use in your locality before buying one.
Let’s dive in.
Are Bluetooth Motorcycle Helmets Legal To Use?
Bluetooth motorcycle helmets have a built-in Bluetooth system. Thus, they allow you to connect to your smartphone to listen to music, make calls, and connect with other riders. The legal status of Bluetooth helmets varies around the world. So, while it may be legal in one state, it may be illegal in another.
But, generally, most states don’t have laws against using Bluetooth helmets. Even in areas where earphones and earbuds are illegal while riding, Bluetooth helmets are legalized. This is because they aren’t in direct contact with the ears, making them less distracting.
The Legality of Bluetooth Helmets Across Regions
In this section, we will consider the legality of Bluetooth motorcycle helmets in different regions.
In the United States, there’s no law mandating the use of helmets. But different states have their laws, and in some states, it’s mandatory. There are also no federal laws against using Bluetooth motorcycle helmets.
Bluetooth motorcycle helmets must, however, meet the Department of Transportation (DOT) standard to be considered legal. This standard is called the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 218 (FMVSS 218).
The requirements to meet the standard include an impact attenuation test, penetration test, and retention system. Helmets that meet the DOT standard have a DOT safety sticker.
Besides federal laws, some states in the U.S. prohibit the use of auxiliary devices. But some have more flexible laws. For instance, Alabama and Hawaii don’t have laws against communication devices.
Other states like Rhode Island, Virginia, Washington, and Florida permit helmets with speakers because they don’t make direct contact with the ears. Hence, it’s lawful to use Bluetooth helmets. Other groups, including Colorado, Minnesota, and the District of Columbia, only allow motorcyclists to wear communication devices on only one ear.
But, generally, most states in the U.S., even those that outlaw the use of earphones entirely, permit motorcyclists to use Built-in Bluetooth helmets. This is because these helmets’ speakers are not directly connected to the ears.
Seeing how laws vary from state to state, it’s crucial to check the laws in your state before buying a Bluetooth headset.
Countries under the European Union generally permit using hands-free systems when motorcycling. So, it’s not illegal to use a Bluetooth helmet in any state in the EU. France and Spain are the only ones that placed a ban on earphones and other devices plugged into the ears. But they permit built-in Bluetooth helmets.
The UNECE 22.05 standard determines the legality of helmets in the European Union. But, it’s proposed that by January 2024, the UNECE 22.05 will work alongside the UNECE 22.05 until it becomes obsolete. The new standard, UNECE 22.06, outlaws the drilling of Bluetooth systems in your helmet.
The manufacturer must test any add-on Bluetooth intercom alongside the helmet to ensure it meets the UNECE standard before it enters the market. This new rule tries to prevent any damage to the structure and safety property of the helmet.
It’s illegal to ride without helmets in the U.K., And helmets worn by motorcyclists must meet one of the following standards:
- British Standard BS 6658:1985 and carry the BSI Kitemark
- UNECE Regulation 22.05
- A European Economic Area member standard offering at least the same safety and protection as BS 6658:1985. It must also carry a mark equivalent to the BSI Kitemark.
Bluetooth helmets are legal in the UK if the helmet meets the British Standards Institution (BSI) requirements stated above.
In Australia, wearing helmets is a must for both riders and their pillion passengers. And as for Bluetooth helmets, using them is legal. However, it’s illegal to drill a hole to fit in a Bluetooth system in your helmet.
But to legally use a Bluetooth motorcycle helmet, it must conform to the approved standards, which include the following:
- Australian/New Zealand Standard AS/NZS 1698
- United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Regulation No 22 (UNECE22.05 or UNECE22.06) as amended.
- It must have a mark certifying compliance with the above standard.
Other Countries and Regions
What if you live in other countries or regions like Africa, Latin America, or Asia? Of course, you can expect the laws to vary among regions. Hence, it is crucial to find out the law in your locality to ensure compliance.
Also, laws can change fast. So it’s crucial to always recheck the legal status of Bluetooth motorcycle helmets in your area over time.
Factors Affect the Legality of Bluetooth Helmets
While Bluetooth motorcycle helmets may be legal in your region, several factors can cause legal issues:
1. Helmet Construction and Certification
A Bluetooth helmet will be legal for use if it meets the safety standards set in a region. For example, the U.S. uses the DOT standard. Safety standards usually test for impact absorption, rigidity, retention system, field of vision, etc.
Hence, it is necessary to buy a Bluetooth helmet that meets your local safety standard. Always check to see what standard your helmet should meet in your region.
2. Distracted Driving and Hands-free Laws
Distracted driving can still cause legal issues even when Bluetooth helmets are legal. In most countries where Bluetooth motorcycle helmets are legal, the police can still penalize you if they think you are distracted. Hence, you must ensure you focus on the road while riding.
For helmets that don’t support voice control, pull off the road before changing your music track. Distracted driving has also been an argument against the hands-free use of devices. And in 2019, England even considered banning hands-free devices, claiming that it’s as dangerous as hand-helds.
3. Noise Restrictions
Bluetooth motorcycle helmets may be legal in your local area. But it is generally illegal to raise the volume above the safe listening levels recommended by WHO.
You may get pulled over for listening to loud music, and you will have to pay a fine. Also, loud music can damage your ear. It also blocks out important sounds like sirens, increasing the chances of an accident.
Safety Tips for Using Bluetooth Motorcycle Helmets
Legality doesn’t equal safety, and with Bluetooth helmets, there are several safety concerns. Mainly, Bluetooth helmets can cause distractions while riding, leading to possible accidents.
Below are some pro tips to follow when choosing and using Bluetooth motorcycle helmets:
A. Proper Helmet Fit and Certification
When choosing a Bluetooth helmet, ensure it fits properly on your head. It should be comfortable and well-fitted. First, place the helmet and secure the chin strap. Ensure you can feel the inside of the helmet against all parts of your head, and also see if the helmet is comfortable.
Rotate it from side to side to see if it rotates. It if does, it’s not fitted. Also, check if the helmet slips forward or backward. And lastly, tilt your head forward and let someone try to roll the helmet off your head.
If the helmet doesn’t meet these checks, it’s not the right size for you. And it will most likely remove in a crash. Also, ensure you buy a Bluetooth helmet certified as meeting the safety standard in your region.
B. Get Familiar with the Controls
When you know how your Bluetooth helmet works, you can ride with less distraction. After buying your helmet, please familiarize yourself with the controls, features, and functions before you use it on the road.
C. Minimize Distractions While Riding
First things first, don’t raise the volume too high. Always ensure you can still hear road sounds like sirens and honks while riding. If you know music distracts you, then don’t play it or do so sparingly.
Also, keep your calls short and don’t talk about complex or sensitive matters that can distract you. If you need to text or perform any task with your hands, always pull off the road first.
D. Proper Maintenance and Replacement
Your motorcycle Bluetooth helmet is not immune to wear and tear, and it could expire over time. The straps may become worn out, or the padding may loosen. You must replace these parts to ensure your helmet is safe.
Also, if it falls or you get involved in a crash, and the helmet has cracks, replace it. Even without cracks, a hard fall can compromise the safety of your helmet. Thus, it’s advisable to change it immediately. If you are repainting your helmet, always use a safe paint recommended by the manufacturer.
The law governing the use of Bluetooth motorcycle helmets is not universal. While using it may be legal in your locality, it may be illegal in another state. Hence, it would be best to know your local laws concerning Bluetooth motorcycle use to ensure compliance.
Although Bluetooth helmets are often legal, it doesn’t mean they are entirely safe. Distractions and other factors can make using Bluetooth helmets dangerous when riding. Thus it’s necessary to follow safety precautions when using them.