Throughout the globe, there are more than 300-million motorcycles roaming, and about 80% of these are underbones and scooters scattered across developing nations in Asia. Unfortunately, and like here in the Philippines, the market is proliferated with substandard motorcycle helmets that are often cheap, and thus very popular among the masses.
This proliferation of substandard helmets also leads to a bigger problem: rider safety. Since these helmets do not undergo the necessary safety testing and certification, they are often made of materials that are not designed for motorcycle use. In the event of an accident, these substandard helmets usually fail to protect their rider, which then leads to his or her demise.
Since 2020, the FIA or the Federation Internationale De L'Automobile, has been working on a solution and it is an idea that has come from the very top.
PHP 500 helmet
“We were given the challenge by president Jean Todt to make a helmet available at a wholesale price of US$10 (about PHP 500) that is both UN Reg. 22.05-certified and comfortable to wear in hot and humid countries,” says FIA Head of Competitor Safety, Nuno Costa, who is applying his experience of developing competition helmets to this mobility project.
“So that is how the project started and with the help of our network of helmet manufacturers we identified some areas to develop an affordable helmet that would meet these two requirements – affordability and wearability.”
The FIA is an association established on June 20, 1904, to represent the interests of motoring organizations and automobile users. To the general public, the FIA is mostly known as the governing body for many auto racing events, such as the well-known Formula One. The FIA also promotes road safety around the world.
Before embarking on such an ambitious goal, the FIA had to reflect on an important question. Why should it devote resources to this area?
The FIA has two pillars, Sport and Mobility. The Mobility mission is to ensure safe, affordable, and clean systems of transport are available to all. President Todt was clear about the need to lead this effort and asked FIA Safety Director Adam Baker to personally oversee the project.
“The President asked us to identify key areas where the work of the Sport division could be exploited for the benefit of road users. The most important projects we have targeting this objective are in the area of road safety,” says Baker.
“According to the UN, riders of motorcycles are 26 times more likely to die in traffic accidents than passenger car occupants, making that mode of transport a significant contributor to the 1.35 million total fatalities each year on our roads. From this UN data, we can see that the biggest potential for a reduction in fatalities for a given investment of resource is in motorcycle riders, and specifically the adoption of safe helmets. So this idea of President Todt, in terms of all the other things we do for road safety, is arguably the most important and effective way to achieve a significant reduction in the 1.35 million figure.”
Now all the FIA safety engineers had to do was develop a product that does not exist on the market and do so in record time. Clearly, not an easy task or it would have been done before.
“If you consider the various product characteristics – cost, ventilation, weight, and safety performance – it’s a combination that hasn’t existed before,” says Baker. “The market forces didn’t naturally produce a product of this type because in the majority of countries where you have the UN Reg. 22.05, the price range of helmets on the market is well above the $10 US wholesale price point, and in lower-income countries, you don’t have the requirement for UN Reg. 22.05.”
Currently, 3,000 helmets have been produced by Spanish manufacturer, NZI, from its facility in China to undergo field testing in countries like India, Jamaica, and Tanzania. Soon, more low-cost, UN safety standards-compliant helmets will also be going to be produced in Vietnam and hopefully, will reach our shores so that Pinoy riders will be safer than ever.