Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute

Consumer-funded, volunteer staff

Helmets Children Promotions Statistics Search

Freedom of Information Act Request
To the Consumer Product Safety Commission

Summary: Here is a copy of our letter to the Consumer Product Safety Commission requesting their data from lab testing of bicycle helmets. Their only response is reprinted below.

((Letterhead of the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute))

April 14, 1997

Mr. Todd A. Stevenson, Deputy Secretary
Consumer Product Safety Commission
Washington, DC 20207

Re: Freedom of Information Act Request

Dear Mr. Stevenson:

This will request that the Consumer Product Safety Commission make disclosure and provide copies of certain materials available to us pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, 5 USC Section 552, and the relevant regulations of the agency. Specifically, we request the records of all tests of bicycle and other helmets performed in CPSC laboratories or by contract laboratories on behalf of CPSC since January 1, 1994. These records would include the type of test, brand and model of each helmet tested, and its performance in the test. We are not requesting test records submitted to CPSC by outside labs not under contract to your agency, including those in the equipment comparison series known as "Round Robin" testing.

Under present regulation, and case law pertaining to the Freedom of Information Act, we believe that these documents are available to us and to other members of the public. They arc not exempted from required disclosure under present interpretations of the Act. Notwithstanding such regulations and law, disclosure of the requested material would be in the public interest. We intend to make the material available to the public on our website and through other means.

If any portion of this request is deemed denied, we request a detailed statement of the reasons for the withholding and an index or similar statement of the nature of the documents withheld. To expedite this request, we would be willing to discuss specific instances of deletion or other exemption claims in advance of a final decision by the agency. In the event of deletions, we request that a reason be stated for each full or partial denial of access.

Pursuant to the Act, we promise to pay reasonable charges incurred for appropriate search and copying of these documents upon presentation of an invoice along with the finished documents. If search and copying fees exceed $100. please telephone us in advance at (703) 486-0100 or email us at info@helmets.org for agreement to such charges. We look forward to your response within 30 days or earlier if possible.

Sincerely yours,

Randy Swart

Note: The language in the first paragraph exempting the "Round Robin" test results was intended to make it unnecessary for CPSC to have to consider at all releasing that data, which is tied in to testing voluntarily done by outside laboratories for CPSC to facilitate comparisons of different test rig designs. Since the testing is voluntary, and may reveal characteristics of the individual labs' test rigs, it could well be considered proprietary. We also wanted to be careful not to affect the labs' willingness to participate in further tests if they were concerned that data submitted could be made public and even used in court against them at some point. Finally, these tests were undertaken on only a few helmet models, and would not be very useful to consumers in any event.

We were looking forward to a response from CPSC and will post it here when received. If the request is denied we will have to go to court for a final ruling.

Acknowledgment from CPSC


April 18, 1997

ARLINGTON, VA 22204-1419

RE: FOIA Request No. S-704092: Bicycle Helmets

Dear Mr. Swert

This is to acknowledge receipt of your Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking records from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Due to the heavy volume of FOIA requests we have received, and because of certain procedural steps we are required to take under our statute, there may be substantial delays in responding to many requests. Please be assured that every effort is being made to process each request as equitably as possible and that the records you requested which can be released will be made available to you at the earliest possible date.

If you have any questions concerning your request, feel free to contact this office at (301) 504-0785.


Todd A. Stevenson
Freedom of Information Officer
Office of the Secretary

We never received anything further from CPSC. The Freedom of Information Act was worthless for us in this case.

Here is our second FOIA request to CPSC.

For a very different approach, see this page of data posted by DOT listing results of 2019 helmet testing to their motorcycle helmet standard. They publish their results on the web. Imagine that!

And to see the result of CPSC's attitude on FOIA requests, see our page on the public database of consumer complaints that they are required by law to put up on the web.