For four decades, motorcyclists in Michigan have been required by law to wear helmets. This fact could change in the near future, however, as the State Legislature considers two bills that would remove this obligation under certain circumstances.
The controversial helmet requirement pits motorcycle safety advocates against riders who favor personal choice. Previous attempts to repeal the law have ultimately failed, in part due to unique provisions of Michigan’s “No Fault” auto insurance scheme. The new bills address this issue by imposing certain conditions for the right to ride without headgear. Motorcyclists would need to be at least 21 years old, pass an additional motorcycle safety course, and carry at least $20,000 of insurance to cover their own medical expenses should they be injured in an accident. Although the bills are backed primarily by Republicans, there is some bipartisan support.
Although I am all for personal liberties, I am concerned that these bills will lead to a large and unnecessary increase in serious and fatal motorcycle accidents. Head injuries are the leading cause of death among motorcyclists, and, when a crash does occur, helmets significantly increase the survivability of the accident. While many motorcyclists might say to themselves “I’m a safe rider,” many accidents are caused by other motorists who fail to see motorcycles. There is no way to completely prevent accidents from happening. Furthermore, $20,000 for medical expenses is nowhere near enough to cover the serious injuries involving a helmetless rider and could jeopardize Michigan’s relatively pro-victim No Fault insurance system.