After an emergency letter by a big group of doctors (130) to the government and an opinion article in NRC, 1 January 2023 marks the introduction of mandatory helmets for blue license plate scooters/mopeds in the Netherlands (25km/h). Whereas neighbouring countries have already regulated this type of vehicle in the previous years, four years after the initiated change the government implements a fine of 100 euros in the case of not wearing a helmet. However, specialists argue that allowing a speedpedelac helmet, as an alternative to the usual scooter helmet, makes it even more dangerous.
The blue license plate scooter (snorfiets) in the Netherlands is a scooter limited to 25km/h. This type of transport is popular in the Netherlands due to the fast and flexible method of transportation, especially in the cities. To drive this type of moped/ scooter, you must be 16 years old and have a special moped driving licence (AM). Upon successfully getting the car driving license (B), one can drive a moped since this is enabled through the B license. A WA-insurance is required and starting from January next year, a 100 euro fine is given to drivers not wearing a helmet.
After the idea got approved by the government back in 2018 to tackle (permanent) brain injuries as a result of collisions, next year marks the implementation. Scooters can easily be upgraded to 30-32km/h, and even 80km/h is not a rarity. This results in dangerous activities and often permanent (brain) damage in the case of an accident. While the experts were satisfied at first, this new regulation took 4 years to launch, and the minister of infrastructure and water management changed the initial plan to also allow speedpedelec helmets for the moped.
According to neurosurgeon Wilco Peul, allowing the speedpedelec helmet results in a fake sense of security and a difficult time doing law enforcement. The prospect is that the number of people with serious brain injuries will insufficiently decrease. An urgent message to the minister is sent to re-adjust the allowance of speedpedelec helmets for blue license plate scooters.
Internist Wouter Bierman argues in RTL that the largest group of scooter enthusiasts, the youth, does not know the repercussions of having an accident. In the case of an accident, the driver will often have a lifetime of damage. In retrospect, Bierman juxtaposes this to tv-programs or movies where drivers easily and quickly wake up from a coma as a result of the accident. In reality, some do not wake up, some awaken slowly, while a large number cannot live their life as planned due to a serious brain injury.
But what is wrong with the speedpedelec helmet? The speedpedelec, an e-bike with a maximum speed of 45km/h due to the pedal assistance, goes faster than the scooter. This should be safe right? Well, these types of helmets are thinner and lighter than motor or scooter helmets. The speedpedelac helmet leaves the ears uncovered, and can imply even more damage to the driver. The tests and conclusions by the government are based on results whereby the scooter has a maximum speed of 25km/h. However, the increase in speed, often common in scooters, gives even more disadvantages upon using the speedpedelec helmet.
Another discussion point is law enforcement. Experts argue that the scooter driver might use a bike helmet instead of the speedpedelac helmet since they look identical. Only the number on the inside of the helmet tells the police the type of helmet. This means that enforcement of to use of the correct helmet is almost impossible. In the case of an e-bike with pedal assistance, you still need to “pedal fairly hard” and the hole in the helmet assists in redirecting the heat. This model of helmet weighs the ventilation and security aspects.
Therefore, when used on a blue-license plate scooter, where ventilation holes are not necessary, one should wear a helmet for the best protection. In other European countries, governments do not make this distinction between scooters and the Dutch 25km/h scooters/ mopeds. According to Bierman is it unbelievable that, while the gravity is equal in all the countries, that different regulations are in place.
In Amsterdam and Utrecht, the local policies differ and mandatory helmets and driving on the main road are required. For the new helm obligation, all other rules stay the same. This means that driving on the bike lane is still correct. In these municipalities, users of 25km/h scooters swiftly shifted to alternatives such as the popular e-bike. While driving becomes less dangerous, the haircut will not be the same as while wearing a helmet.
Nowadays, this trend is recognizable and people use Facebook and Marktplaats to get rid of their snorfiets. The sales of this type of scooter are around 30.000 in the first three quarters of the year. This enormous decrease in the months from January until September is the first in 15 years. The city of Tilburg (municipality Brabant) plays in on this shift and offers 300 euros to scrap your scooter. Another 300 euros is given if an (electric) bike is bought. This subsidy is directed at making the air cleaner and decreasing the number of accidents.