After being handed a $289 fine for attaching a GoPro to his motorcycle helmet, Victorian motorcyclist Max Lichtenbaum decided to challenge the decision — and lost. This decision effectively bans riders in Victoria from attaching cameras to their helmets by any means, with similar laws in NSW already being acted upon by police. So why is a little camera such a big deal?
In these two states, adding an attachment that protrudes by more than 5mm is seen as voiding the helmet’s adherence to the Australian Standards, effectively classifying it as a non-compliant helmet.
When former Formula One Champion Michael Schumacher’s brain injury was suggested to have been caused by the GoPro camera mounted on his helmet as much as by the impact itself, these laws start to make a little more sense. Given how hard an impact motorcyclists can potentially face in a crash, this is a legitimate concern. However, the law is barely standardised throughout Australia — while cops in NSW and Victoria will hand you a fine for attaching a camera to your helmet, further north in Queensland the police won’t just overlook your use of a camera, you may even find them wearing one themselves. Western Australia is another that has followed this trend, utilising helmet cameras to catch motorists using mobile phones on the road, among other infractions.
In the end, the irregularity between states comes down to technicalities in the Australian Standard for motorbike helmets, and the way that each state’s police force decides to interpret it. Cameras are not the only recent addition that will be effected by this court ruling however, with the legality of other additions like bluetooth receivers and intercom microphones being brought into question. Is it truly a matter of safety, then, or is it just nitpicking? Motorcycle riders most often use cameras for their own safety after all, with a visible camera on a motorcyclist often causing others to drive more cautiously around them.
We’ve already seen a ski helmet that’s been specifically designed to protect the wearer from potentially dangerous camera mountings, could it then be possible that we will see similar designs appearing in motorcycle helmets? And, if they do appear, will the Australian Standards for motorcycle helmets be adapted to allow for this increasingly popular technology? While Mr Lichtenbaum’s fine was not repealed, it was eventually reduced, and his lawyer Malcolm Cumming hopes that the case can still be used to spur discussion on the standardisation of helmet standards across Australia — allowing riders in all states to embrace new technology without fear of prosecution.