No More Motorcycle Helmets in Michigan

In 2010, motorcycles made up only three percent of registered vehicles on the road. Yet, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that motorcyclists accounted for 14 percent of all 2010 traffic fatalities. That year, 4,502 motorcyclists were killed and another 82,000 injured.

Per mile travelled, motorcyclists were 30 times more likely to be killed in a traffic accident than someone in a car.

Michigan's No Helmet Law

In April 2012, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed a bill allowing motorcyclists older than 20 years of age to choose whether or not to wear a helmet while biking. The measure received bi-partisan support even though previous efforts to abolish the helmet law were met with vetoes.

The change in law is not a free for all. In addition to the age requirement, motorcyclists must have at least $20,000 in medical insurance on their motorcycle policy. Helmetless riders must also pass a safety course unless they have been licensed to ride for at least two years.

Yet, do those requirements ensure safety?

While many motorcyclists support the change and the increased freedom it provides, others are skeptical, claiming the lack of a helmet law will only increase traffic fatalities and raise insurance premiums. The Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning estimates the change will result in 30 additional motorcycle deaths and 127 more incapacitating injuries each year.

Only time will tell if those estimates were overly optimistic. In just the first three months after the law's passage, there were 1,326 motorcycle crashes with 33 fatalities. Where usage was documented, 32 percent of riders did not use a helmet and 25 percent (72) of those helmetless riders suffered "incapacitating" injuries.

The Impact on Traffic Safety

With less protection during an accident, motorcyclists are now much more vulnerable and susceptible to serious injury and death. Drivers should be even more careful around motorcycles as the potential liability for injuring or killing a motorcyclist just went through the roof.

Motorcyclist who opt out of wearing a helmet must be extra vigilant while riding to avoid accidents and injuries without a layer of plastic and padding between their head and the asphalt.