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Interpretation ID: 001773ogm

    Dr. Barry D. Faguy
    Comite DAction Politique Motorcycliste
    C.P. 49 007, Place Versailles
    Montreal, Quebec, H1N 3T6

    Dear Dr. Faguy:

    This responds to your letter seeking information about the labeling requirements in Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 218, Motorcycle Helmets (49 CFR 571.218). Your letter correctly notes that section S5.6.1 of Standard No. 218 requires that motorcycle helmets be permanently labeled with a "DOT" mark as the manufacturers certification that the helmet complies with Standard No. 218. You indicate that Quebec courts interpreting Quebec law have held that the "DOT" certification mark must be accompanied by a reference to "FMVSS 218" in order for a helmet worn by a rider to comply with Quebecs helmet law. Your letter further states that an example of such a decision is enclosed for our information. However, the decision you discuss was not in the letter we received. You then ask us to state without "any possible ambiguity" whether S5.6 (e) is intended to require that the legend "FMVSS 218" appear on the exterior of a helmet as evidence that the helmet has been certified as complying with Standard No. 218. You also ask if the legend "FMVSS218" must appear on the DOT label or any other label on the inside or outside of a helmet. Finally, you ask how a law enforcement officer can, through a visual inspection, determine if a motorcycle helmet complies with Standard No. 218.

    By way of background information, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has the authority under Chapter 301 of Title 49, U.S. Code, to establish Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSSs) applicable to new motor vehicles and new items of motor vehicle equipment, including motorcycle helmets. This statute requires each person manufacturing, selling, or offering for sale any new vehicle, or item of equipment, covered by an FMVSS, to ensure that the new vehicle or equipment item is certified as meeting all applicable FMVSSs. These provisions apply to products manufactured, sold, or offered for sale in the United States. We express no view as to what may be required under the laws of Canada or any of its provinces.

    The "DOT" certification mark and other required labels provide important information regarding the helmet, including the fact that the manufacturer has certified that the helmet meets Standard No. 218. Section S5.6.1 of the Standard requires that each helmet be permanently and legibly labeled with certain warnings, identifying information, size, and the DOT certification mark. Our agency requires permanent marking of these items because we believe this information is needed for the life of the helmet. However, S5.6.1 does not require that any label contain the legend "FMVSS218" or "FMVSS 218." Furthermore, Standard No. 218 does not require that a compliant helmet be marked or labeled, either on the outside or the inside, with the legend "FMVSS218" or "FMVSS-218."

    You also ask how a law enforcement officer can determine if a motorcycle helmet complies with Standard No. 218 by visual inspection. Whether a law enforcement official's inspection of a helmet is sufficient to justify either the detention of an individual or the issuance of a summons is a matter of state, or in your case, provincial law. As such, this office cannot comment on whether such an action by law enforcement official is in compliance with the laws of Quebec. Similarly, this office cannot render an opinion regarding either the laws of the Province of Quebec or the application of those laws by any court. Accordingly, we are unable to provide any comments on the propriety of the court decisions discussed in your letter or the requirements of Quebecs laws.

    I hope this information is helpful. If you have any further questions or need some more information on this subject, please do not hesitate to contact Mr. Otto Matheke of my staff at this address, or by telephone at (202) 366-2992.


    Jacqueline Glassman
    Chief Counsel

    cc:     Dr. Barry D. Faguy

    189 Hymus Blvd. Suite #600
    Point Claire, Quebec
    Canada, H9R-1E9