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Government orders dark visor tests… at night

Published: 01 June 2001

The Government is ordering tests on dark visors… AT NIGHT.

The decision (and we wish the testers the best of luck) has been taken after an initial report suggested dark visors are fine for daytime use and were likely to get legal approval at last in the UK.

But the fact that the night time test is being conducted at all could be a bad sign. An increasingly nannying state may be unlikely to trust us to change visors when it gets dark… and take the decision out of our hands by keep them illegal in all light conditions.

The Institute of Consumer Ergonomics in Loughborough, Leics has been looking into whether we should be allowed to use dark visors for the Government’s Department for the Environment and Regions.

Its report was expected to be finished by the beginning of this year, but the DETR says it will still not be ready for some months after gaps were found in the testing procedure.

DETR officials refuse to reveal what the " gaps " were, but said they became evident last year following an update report from ICE – and extra testing was ordered.

So while we’re waiting for the report, and risking the wrath of police if we use a dark visor, the testing body is working out how they perform in conditions the vast majority of us would consider totally inappropriate for dark visor use.

DETR spokesman Richard Addison said: " The visors are being tested in all conditions, including at night, because it’s sensible and logical to do that. "

What does seem " sensible and logical " is that a dark visor will not be safe at night. We can tell them that now and save them the time and trouble.

Addison said: " You would guess that some motorcyclists use dark visors at all times, even if they are heavily tinted – there may be people who use them at night. "

The report is part of a wider-ranging assessment, which will also look at the safety of dark windscreens on cars. But the essential difference between a helmet visor and a car windscreen is the ability to change a visor at will.

Addison added: " That could be taken into account in the findings of the test, but we won’t know until it is published. "

Visors which block out more than 50 per cent of the light have been illegal for use on the road since the mid-80s, but last year there was a crackdown on their sale for anything – even track days or race events.

The British Standards Institute redrafted its kitemark regulation in 1997 to allow us to use visors that let in 25 per cent of light – in daylight hours only.

But the DETR, which was then known as the Department of Transport, vetoed the changes.

Sources suggest the decision went in the face of advice from opthalmic experts on the BSI sub-committee, who told the DETR that visors which let through 18 per cent of light were safe for use in daylight hours.

But the DETR said it was a safety hazard to wear a dark visor because of the differing conditions, including at dusk and inside tunnels.

A spokesman for the BMF, which has campaigned on the dark visor issue, said: " It is a daddying and patronising attitude. In many other countries, this is not a problem. They buy their helmet, fit the visor they want and ride off. They get no hassle from the police over it.

" We are being nannied – people are not stupid and would not wear a visor at night. "

Have your say: Comment on this story in Talk Bikes (TALK NEWS) under the thread Dark Visors.

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