Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Motorcycle Helmet Proposal Includes Preemption Language

NHTSA’s proposed rule on motorcycle helmets, while significantly increasing the safety requirements, includes language that could preempt state tort law claims related to motorcycle helmets. The preemption language in question would prohibit consumers from legally holding helmet manufacturers liable for helmets that meet the NHTSA’s minimum safety standard proposed by the new rule.

“On the one hand, the agency tries to strengthen the helmet safety standard for consumers, but then attempts to takes away consumers’ right to hold manufacturers accountable for the products they produce,” said AAJ President Les Weisbrod.

The NHTSA, in a report on motorcycle helmet effectiveness, acknowledged that technological changes over the years have led to improvements in helmet design and materials that have saved thousands of lives. The agency data showed the effectiveness of helmets increased from 29% in 1982 through 1987, to 37% between 1993 through 2002, saving 7,808 riders' lives. "Clearly technology made a difference in thousands of motorcycle riders’ lives, however, if NHTSA’s proposed rule continues with the preemption language, manufacturers of helmets have little incentive to continue to make helmets safer for consumers,” added Weisbrod. “The civil justice system provides an added incentive that NHTSA’s helmet proposal erodes.”

The motorcycle helmet rule is one of 21 proposed rules from the Bush administration with preemption that AAJ is monitoring. For a list of the rules AAJ is following, click here.

No comments: