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Rider confusion over tinted visors

HJC releases Star Wars and Marvel helmets Punisher tinted visors

Australian and European helmet standards allow tinted visors that filter only half the available light, yet car windows can be much darker, filtering as much as 65%.

In a strange twist, you can wear sunglasses that filter more than 90% of light.

Furthermore, the interpretation of the helmet laws seems to vary in each state, making it irritatingly confusing for riders.

It also creates an anomaly where motorcycle police wear tinted visors, yet it may be considered illegal for “citizen riders”!

While we haven’t heard of any fines for riders wearing tinted visors, we asked Australian Motorcycle Council Helmets Committee Chair Guy Stanford for his take on the laws regarding tinted visors:

Guy Stanford - Mobile phone while riding - darrk visor helmets tinted visors
Guy ad his tinted Vozz helmet

Riders have been using dark visors since helmets were mandated for use in 1972.

In 2010, changes to the NSW road rules changed the definition of a helmet, providing micro-management of helmet labels and what accessories can be added.

These changes spread to some other states, so we now have different road rules in different states.

Use of dark visors is permitted only in Western Australia. In Queensland it is ok under AS/NZS 1698 helmet, but not under ECE 22-05 helmet. All other states require helmets to remain in compliance with the point-of-sale requirements.

Firstly, let’s look at what is a “dark visor”. There is a technical definition, based on Visible Light Transmitted (VLT). A perfectly clear visor will transmit nearly 100% of daylight, whereas a visor with 20% VLT is “dark”, i.e. the lower the VLT, the darker the visor.

Both helmet standards (AS/NZS 1698 and ECE 22-05) require that when offered for sale, the visor must comply with standards that limit VLT of the visor to 50%. This is not very dark at all. For example, car side windows are much darker, being permitted to be tinted to 35% VLT.

The Australian standard for sunglasses (AS/NZS 1067:2003) allows for sunglasses down to 8% VLT. That’s very dark, but there is no restriction on wearing very dark sunglasses when driving a car.

The problem for riders comes from current road rules that require helmets to continue to be in identical condition as they were when in the box at the shop. This also includes labels and instruction books.

There are several visor standards of relevance and all provide for tests to ensure that when impacted by a high speed rock or piece of gravel, the visor does not break in sharp “shards” that could cut you, particularly in the eye.

For ECE 22-05 helmets, visors at point of sale must comply with the ECE 2205 visor requirements. For AS/NZS 1698:2006, visors at point of sale must comply with AS 1609. Neither allows a dark visor below 50% VLT.

Two USA standards exist that are used for dark visors, one from the American National Standards Institute, ANSI Z.87, and one from the Vehicle Equipment Safety Commission of the US Department of Transportation, VESC-8. 

Both of these test for impact, shatter, optical distortion, colour transmission, in a similar manner to AS 1609 and ECE 22-05.

The ANSI Z.87 standard allows for dark visors down to 14%VLT and VESC-8 allows down to 20% VLT.

Sunglasses are regarded as an accessory for use when driving and similarly, a dark visor is an accessory for a helmet where sunglasses may not be practical at all.

For example, when entering an underground car park or tunnel, a rider can instantly flip the dark visor out of their vision line, rather than stop, remove and stow away a pair of sunglasses.

The Australian Motorcycle Council has made strong representations to have helmet laws amended to remove the present impediment to use of dark visors in almost all states.

We applaud Western Australia for their commonsense and practical helmet laws that allow use of dark visors.

  1. I would like to see AS1609 and perhaps ECE 2205 amended to include blocking of (maybe) 95%+. I suppose you could call it 5% UVLT or less.
    No doubt there are some standard visors that do that out-of-the-box, but I think all of them should.
    This becomes more important with tinted visors as your pupils may be larger behind a tinted visor and potentially let more UV in than if you were behind a clear visor.
    UV transmission may not be a big issue in Europe but in the wide brown land down here in Oz I think it is important.

    Where a helmet has an increasingly popular and convenient drop-down glare shield, these glare shields should at least comply with sunglass standards for colour transmission and UV absorbtion since these inbuilt drop-down glare shields are, in operation, defacto sunglasses.

    While I’m at it, wouldn’t it be nice if those drop-down glare shields had more than one position setting, as in one or two more notches between all or nothing.

    1. While none of the standards specify UV protection, the plastic used in visors provide UV protection, even clear visors, many manufacturers do specify the UV protection level

  2. Off on a slight tangent.
    It may pay to start a petition to have some of the more confusing and ambiguous rules laws restrictions etc either quashed or properly specified.
    An example of this would be getting the ridiculous filtering rule of being able to filter on the shoulder of roads with a limit of 90k or above but not when there is a speed reduction in effect. The rule is written in such away that it looks like a word was left out that word being either gazetted or normally. If you insert either of these words into the rule it has the effect of allowing filtering even when a reduction is in effect as the road has a normal limit above 90k so the reduction does not negate the right to edge filter. Compiling a list of such rule changes running them past a legal expert and putting them in to a petition on a national and or state level shouldn’t be very hard for one of our representatives.

  3. Part of the Australian Constitution states that you cannot be disadvantaged by differing laws on the same item in different states. One needs to question how these states can make different laws on a whim, without proper authority and far in excess of their limited powers to make such dastardly laws. The Constitution is a valuable tool for fighting these government run scams that are solely designed to extract your cash, and have no relevance to safety issues.

    1. An interesting point joeallen. I wonder if it has ever been used in court as a defence in relation to this issue?

  4. Tinted visors are dangerous at night and on foggy days, just get a clear visor and wear sunglasses if you need light attenuation, that way your helmet is useful on all weather conditions, not just on sunny days.

    1. Or the BMW / Schuberth helmets that have an inner drop-down visor.

      Expensive, yeap, but aside from the utility of a visor that can be easily lifted and dropped while keeping the outer visor down, they seem to be among the quietest

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