Poor helmet may have cost man his life

Last updated 05:00 16/04/2013

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An adequate helmet could be the difference between life and death say motorcycle groups. Matt Bowen and Jenna Lynch report.

Police are investigating whether a possibly substandard helmet cost a Waikato motorcyclist his life.

Hamilton man Garry Wallace, 47, died in Waikato Hospital on Sunday after suffering head injuries in a crash on Wednesday.

In the crash, it seems a truck pulled out in front of Mr Wallace as he rode through the roundabout at the intersection of Norton Rd and State Highway 1.

His death takes Waikato's road toll to seven this year - including three motorcyclists.

Waikato District road policing manager, Inspector Marcus Lynam, said Mr Wallace's death was all the more tragic because it was avoidable.

"The truck driver saw the Harley Davidson at the last minute and stopped but Mr Wallace had to swerve to avoid the truck and, in doing so, lost control of the motorbike and crashed."

Mr Lynam said Mr Wallace's helmet did not "appear" to be a NZ Safety approved helmet, and initial indications were that had he been wearing an approved helmet his injuries would have been survivable.

All approved motorcycle helmets must comply with one or more of seven international standards and each one is marked by a specific logo that must be printed on the helmet.

Mr Lynam said there were none of those on Mr Wallace's.

Automobile Assocation spokesman Andrew Bayliss said regulations stated a motorcyclist must wear an approved helmet unless the individual had an exemption.

Experienced motorcyclist rider and Kiwi Rider magazine editor, Ross MacKay said German skull cap style or "shortie" helmets like the one worn by Mr Wallace were once fashionable, but now only a small minority choose to wear them.

He said after wearing a shortie helmet once he would not wear one again.

"At the end of the day, any helmet is better than no helmet, but personally I would only wear the best helmet I can afford - which would be a full face helmet," he said.""

Mr MacKay said safety approved helmet cost as little as $99 and if riders valued their lives, it was a small price to pay.

"That's not much to pay when you're thinking of your loved ones," he said.

"You've only got one head."

Ulysses Motorcycle Club national secretary Jim Galt said skull-cap style helmets were not the helmet of choice for the mainstream, and if someone turned up wearing one to a ride he was in charge of, he would send them packing.

"The Ulysses Club doesn't support the wearing of anything other than proper safety equipment," he said.

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"I wouldn't go as far as to say you'd be better off without one, but you would probably have about as much protection as you would with a bicycle helmet," he said

Mr Lynam said the coroner would determine the cause of Mr Wallace's death, but, "this (the helmet) is something that appears to have been a contributing factor".

He said riders took a serious risk if they decided not to wear approved helmets.

* Anyone who witnessed last Wednesday's crash at the Norton Rd - State Highway 1 roundabout, but have not yet spoken to police, are asked to contact Constable Mark Strongman at the Waikato Highway Patrol on (07) 858 6200.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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