Michigan — April 13, 2012 at 9:09 pm

THE BIG PICTURE – Michigan mandatory helmet law repealed today


Freedom or burden?

[Note: The Big Picture is a new feature at Eclectablog featuring the remarkable photography of Anne C. Savage.]

For 42 years Michigan has had a mandatory helmet law but today Gov. Rick Snyder repealed the law for riders 21 years or older. It was passed with immediate effect.

What are your opinions and experiences with this? Tell us in the comments.

  • Ed

    You’re not likely to see a BMW rider (as seen above) on the road without a helmet.
    It’ll be neat to see the stats when the’re reported one year after enacting the repeal.

    • JAM

       Hey if they are repealing the helmet law while we are at it let’s repeal the seatbelt law too !  After all it is about safety.  You can always have the choice of wearing a seatbelt if you want to.  Get rid of the seatbelt law and make it a choice not mandatory !  People that use helmets and seatbelts should get a break on their insurance rates !

      • One factor of wearing seatbelts that has no correlation to helmets is; seatbelts keep operators in their seat and at the controls thus giving a possibility to control the vehicle through the accident. Passengers wearing seatbelts are restrained from possibly interfering with the drivers ability to control the vehicle. Wearing seatbelts not only affects that vehicle but any other property or persons.

  • Guess who pays for the Emergency Room care and the subsequent surgery/post op care, etc., on the rider

    • CB_Demented

       The insured pay for it…either through their own insurance, or in the charge backs absorbed by the hospital, passed on to insurance companies, and then passed on to their customers.

      • Taz49459

        Everyone is concerned the riders arent paying enoff , I was in a car verses motorcycle accident last yr ( wearing a helmet fully insured , with medical also ) The women that hit me with her car was drugged out of her goard , no insurance at all who do you think is paying for them the UNINSURED  We all are but you dont hear anything about all the uninsured , I pay more than my fair share in insurance so who has the right to tell me what gear I should or shouldnt wear ? We all pay into the pool so why does the non rider diserve to use it more than the rider?

  • I think this is a mistake. I say this from watching 2 of my friends die in front of me when their Harley’s collided and no one was wearing helmets. (This was in CA) I held my girlfriend as she died in my arms.

     If people want to ride without helmets then they should be required to have $1 million dollars in health care insurance. I used to work as an Emergency room nurse and I have seen the results of no-helmet accidents. The costs are staggering. Not just in dollars but in quality of lives. Do not hand me this nonsense about it being about freedom, liberty, whatever. When these accidents happen–and they WILL happen– the effects are damaging.

    Of course I’m sure the it-won’t-happen-to-me-and-if-it-does-not-your-business crowd will rant on about now they really are free. Let me ask them: how free will they be when they end up in PVS (permanent vegetative state) in first a neuro ward and then a skilled nursing facility for life? Millions of dollars go into caring for no-helmet accident victims. Not just long-term care victims but even the ones that end up with a broken leg.

    I do not understand the reason for repealing this law. It makes no sense.

  • Aquagranny911

    I know two people who are alive today without serious brain damage because they were wearing a helmet when they were riding a motor cycle & got hit by a car.  We know several people who ride motor cycles who would never ride without a helmet regardless of the laws.

    People who ride motor cycles without helmets where I live are called: “organ donors” if there is enough left of them after an accident.

  • The EMTs I know here in Wisconsin call them ‘donorcycles.’  I’m sure the ‘gubmint can’t tell me what I can do!’ types in MI are thrilled by the helmet law repeal.  Many are undoubtedly the same people who are incensed at the idea that they should be required to carry health insurance coverage, but of course they could easily use up hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical resources when they slide off the road on wet pavement somewhere that they would expect the rest of society to assume on their behalf.   Police reports here mention if alcohol was a factor in accidents; I wish motorcycle accident reports would also include a note about whether the rider has health coverage.

    Our state law requires anyone under 18 to wear a helmet and that’s it.  There are periodically huge rallies around the state capital with tens of thousands of bikers protesting even the suggestion of helmet laws.  It baffles me, but, oddly, I’m not a fan of bugs in my teeth or closed head injury, so whatever.

  • Terri49333

    Bewildered and angry. We’re a family of cyclists, fraction of the speed of motorcycles and have experience with the value of padding the brain bucket.

    Also had an recent car meets pedestrian event involving college-aged son. $20,000 wouldn’t have payed for half his costs and his injuries were entirely orthopedic. At least a thousand times in the days and weeks after he was hit my I expressed relief that his head never smacked the pavement, it ‘s just a broken leg.

    Enforceable with our gutted law enforcement? What’s the penalty for riding while young and under-insured? Delay calling the EMTs for 15 minutes? Not!

  • Bill Cole

    This is a dumb law.

    My first vehicle was a motorcycle. For many years my primary (and at times only) vehicle was a motorcycle. I have a ’81 Honda CM250 Custom in my garage that I ride less than I would like. I learned to ride as a teenager on rural roads in NW Michigan. I’ve had a few spills, thankfully avoiding other vehicles. As fun as it is to ride hatless and dressed for the standing-still weather I know that my helmet and protective clothing has taken damage that might have permanently maimed me. It really does not matter whether you are the only vehicle involved, when a rider loses control at 50MPH, there’s always a candidate for lethal impact nearby. This law will make insurance rates for all riders more expensive because the extra $20k insurance required to ride stupid is a fig leaf. Cops won’t be pulling over riders without helmets to check their insurance status. People without the extra insurance will be riding without helmets and doing themselves more damage and the insurers will recover their costs from all of the 2-wheel risk pool. Maybe there could be a way to allow people to ride without a helmet without spreading the risk to the rest of us, but this isn’t it. Distinctive plates maybe? A requirement that any passenger must wear a shirt with “I’m With Stupid” on the back in 3″ letters? And of course, the supplemental insurance amount should probably be more like $100k instead of $20k. 

  • I understand the whole “personal choice” thing, but I can’t say I really agree with the repealing of this law. We wear seatbelts & helmets for a reason – to be safe. Cars & motorcycles can be extremely dangerous machines. Wearing a helmet isn’t gonna kill you, but not wearing one just might.

  • CB_Demented

    I’ve been riding for 35 years. My first vehicle was a motorcycle. My first new vehicle was a motorcycle. I’ve ridden from ocean to ocean twice. I had a racing license in California and participated in AMA Superbike series. I rode to 167mph on the Bonneville Salt Flats. I’ve gone down on a bike 11 times on the road and track, twice at over 100mph.

    On top of that, my brother nearly lost his life just over a year ago when an asshole turned left, right in front of him at a stop light, trying to gun the yellow, and my brother flew into, and bounced off the windshield at approximately 50mph. He was in a coma for 2 days, broke a half dozen bones, was bleeding internally, and wasn’t expected to live by the police who brought him in, or the doctor who issued the initial press release.

    So believe me when I say I am well aware of the potential dangers of riding a motorcycle, especially in a state like Michigan who’s tourists in Florida drive worse than from any other state save Virginia.

    I have rarely rode without full riding attire and even more rarely without a helmet, and would stridently argue that you don’t get on a motorcycle in most circumstances without a full helmet, palm studded motorcycle gloves, riding boots or shoes with a steel shank, and a suitable riding jacket with a lobster back insert and proper reflective tape.

    However…I also firmly believe in the right to foolish behavior as long as you don’t hurt someone else doing it, and if you want to cave your head in by being foolish, that’s none of the government’s business. I consider helmet laws to be intrusive, nanny state bullshit that the government has no business regulating…right up there with laws banning transfat, blue laws, and the ridiculous drug war.

    • I’m generally in agreement on this. I, too, rode motorcycles for years. When I was in college, my dad gave me a new Yamaha 850 Maxima street bike. A month after I received it, a guy who had been drinking pulled out in front of me on a busy 5-lane road. I skidded, slammed into his rear quarter panel and flew off the bike, over his trunk, landing on the pavement on the other side. The forks of the bike were crushed up beneath, totaling it. I hit on my knee, rolled and bounced the back of my head off the pavement. If I hadn’t been wearing a helmet, it would have cracked my head open like a Cadbury cream egg.

      That said, people should be free to be idiots and I, too, think that it’s an intrusive law.

      However, it crosses a line when everyone else pays higher insurance costs to cover the people who splatter themselves. As has been said several times in this thread, the required $20,000 insurance coverage barely pays for your first day in the hospital after a severe motorcycle accident, particularly if there is a head injury due to not wearing a helmet.

      So, I have a problem with that. I shouldn’t have to pay for someone else’s stupidity.

      Another thing that comes to mind is enforcement. How the hell do they know if you have the requisite insurance? Are they going to pull over all motorcyclists? Hardly. They may find out when they are putting you into an ambulance, in fact, and then it’s too late.

      The interesting bit for me in this is Governor Snyder’s capitulation to Republicans on this. There’s a great report at Michigan Radio where it says, “His office says that this [signing] recognizes that he has a partnership with the Republican Legislature and that this is something, clearly, a majority of the House and Senate wanted.” He totally rolled over on this and there’s no reason to think he won’t keep doing that on more critical things like Right to Work. Stay tuned.

      • CB_Demented

         If the argument is that it increases insurance premiums, then I have to things to reply to that.

        1. With Obamacare, who cares?
        2. So do thousands of other things including smoking, turning 15 and driving, being less than 25 and driving, owning a motorcycle at all, owning a sports car at all, being overweight etc etc etc. Should we make all of these illegal as well?

        The role of government is to protect freedoms…not take them away.

    • Tom

      Here here!!!

  • Anniemcstaples

    What is wrong with this man, is he mentally ill?  Anyone with half a brain knows that the helmet law saved lives,  Also, he goes against the law using immediate effect, let it go by the law of 90 days.  This repeal needs to be repealed.  Must be that many of his friends ride bikes!!!!!

    • CB_Demented

      If prohibition taught us anything, you can’t save people from themselves. Alcohol kills more people, ruins more families, and causes more disease than every crash in every two wheel vehicle with or without a helmet.

      Government’s job is to protect us from one another…not from ourselves.

  • This is an ultimate absurdity.  I was riding at 60mph back in the 70’s when I hit a deer broadside.  The helmet I was wearing had the front snaps tore off and nearly all the helmet material taken off as well.  If I had not had this helmet on the tearing off would have been my head and brain material.  Consequently, I am here now and have seen two daughters grow up and welcomed a new grand daughter into the world.  I am forever thankful that I had my helmet on.  Nuff said!

  • Schrutesbeets

    I’m a believer that if your brain isn’t smart enough to protect itself from being splattered on the pavement, then this is survival of the fittest and let it happen.

    I do however agree that since you’re going to end up in the hospital, they should be required to have insurance that protects the rest of us from paying for their choice.

  • Roger

    In Florida, one benefit of repealing the helmet law has been an increase in the availability of organs for transplants.

    • Julie Weiss

       Seriously.  A close relative is a neurosurgeon.  Trust me.  You’ll want to be wearing a helmet if you’re in an accident.  Otherwise – —  more organs for transplants, as the man says.

  • A common theme in this argument is the relationship between helmet laws and healthcare expense.
    Motorcycle accidents, helmets or no, incur medical expenses; dead helmet-less victims cost less than surviving helmeted ones.If government provided healthcare to all its citizens then it ought to pursue policy that supports the health and safety of those citizens. 
    But when the government throws its citizens to the mercy of a highly profitable private healthcare system, it has no moral justification to impose helmet laws.

    • Bill Cole

      The problem is that the law ultimately makes sure that if people are reckless enough, we’ll all eventually pick up the costs of their recklessness. Real universal healthcare would be better, and so would a political environment that didn’t consider the leaders of the GOP to be candidates for public employment outside of sheltered workshop programs… 

      I’d be FOR a helmet law repeal that exempted people in helmetless crashes from all emergency care mandates, made insurance companies exclude and/or require special coverage for such accidents, and made all expenses incurred in such crashes exempt from bankruptcy proceedings.

      However, we live in the real world where neither socialist nor libertarian “utopias” is politically possible. 

  • Chris Hoult

    I am presently in Thailand.144 people have died on the roads during the first 3 days of the Songkran holiday. (the holiday period is 7 days and this doesn’t include the peak holiday days.) Expect in the region of 800 deaths. Nearly all are motor bike riders. The bikes used here are small and low powered and helmet use is non existent. Michigan !! To abolish compulsory use of helmets in a country that at least tries to enforce its laws is totally irresponsible. 

  • Bill Landrum

    When I first started riding a motorcycle in 1965, the m/c helmet laws were primarily a harrassment of m/c drivers.  Police didn’t like us on the road.  We were seen by them and the public as being second-class or Hell’s Angels types.  I felt at that time that it was very unfair to require m/c riders to wear helmets, but not require car drivers to wear seat belts.  The human costs for m/c crashes was very small compared to car crashes at the time.  But times have changed.  Car drivers are required to wear seat belts now for the last couple of decades or so, children have to be strapped into car seats, it is reasonable on balance to require m/c drivers to wear helmuts.  The police no longer harass m/c drivers.  We are accepted by the public.  I have never ridden without a helmut, and wouldn’t dream of changing that now.  After all, I am not stupid.

  • DbihL

    You have to wear a seatbelt in your car.  A helmet to ride a pedal bike or rollerblade in the metro park but no helmet on a motorcycle.  Way to go Snyder!

    • CB_Demented

       All of those are nanny state laws, and all should be repealed with the possible exception of having children wear helmets.

      Next thing you’ll want them to ban salt cause it’s bad for you.

  • Paul_impola

    A lack of helmet laws is absolutely great for organ donor programs. It gives them a huge increase in the supply of raw materials.

  • vocqueen

    One of my brothers lost his best friend in a motorcycle accident.  He wasn’t wearing a helmet.  People who want to ride without a helmet don’t think beyond themselves.  They don’t think of the grief their loved ones will go through when their unprotected heads get busted open and they die, all in the name of “freedom.” 

  • Brazil

    How about this: you can only ride helmet free when you have a muffler on your bike. If the state is going to give, they should get in return…… less noise. 

    • Kev

      are u stupid motorcycles have mufflers

  • curious

    Just wondering why this was the priority, I mean it is not really like Michigan doesn’t have bigger concerns. My instinct is to ask what is behind this move? Who wanted the law repealed and why? Was it bothering someone?

  • curious

    Ok, now I get it. There’s an extra $20,000 health insurance requirement.

    • curious

      Sorry, not trying to spam your page, but the way that sounds is that every motorcyclist is going to have to pay for the additional insurance. If someone reads it another way, I am glad to be corrected/informed.

  • Jane mariouw

    the NO HELMET law will entice more tourists/riders to Michigan to spend their money.
    if or WHEN they are seriously injured, they will be the golden gooses for rehab centers
    because Michigans’ no fault insurance guarantees an endless pool of money  to pay rehabs and such businesses, where-in the  patients can’t even leave, legally.  families are persuaded from becoming guardians by advocacy groups who fight in court, so lawyers can be the “guardians”
     at $300/5minutes for representing the brain damaged client  before the judge decrees them to a 24 hour facility .  Its a racket that makes money.  it entices people with poor judgement who will lose more than their health.  my best friends’ son has narrowly escaped this scenario. a caregiver friend at a facility saw this first hand.  a shuttle driver for a hotel saw it first hand as a worker.(all told to me personally)
    right here in ANN ARBOR MICHIGAN!

  • The Michigan
    motorcycle accident lawyers of Buckfire & Buckfire, P.C. created
    a state by state motorcycle helmet laws graphic to aide bikers in their rides
    across the U.S. The Motorcycle Helmets Laws graphic is a map of the U.S., with
    a color key that defines the helmet laws in each state. Not only does the graphic
    consist of great information on the state helmet laws, fines, and jail time,
    but is visually cool as well. The map is displayed on the back of a biker’s
    black-distressed leather jacket, with other information uniquely displayed on
    the motorcycle’s rear-view mirrors. To view this awesome graphic, visit http://bit.ly/MIMotorcycleAccidentLawyers

  • LifeRyder

    Problem YOU and other fail to point out…..it’s a choice. Unlike the 21% increase in MCCA (2013) which cost $175.00 per vehicle -in my case that amt. to $1.050 annual. Then the kicker is motorcyclist are very, very limited to access that pool. While in the last two years the MCCA acctount has a profit of $23,090,322.

  • James Zablocki

    I believe that you are full of it sir. You gotta be a state plant or with law enforcement! Seatbelts do ABSOLUTELY nothing to stop side to side movement if in an accident, PERIOD!!! We are coming for the seatbelt law first, then every other law designed to give law enforcement any reason under the sun to pull you over when they feel like it. Time for the sleeping giant to awaken. In this scenario, David will not prevail over Goliath my friend. I can awaken even the sleepiest of the sleepy heads my friend! Time for the lazy slobs in the state house and Washington to find out who the boss really is. Funny, when someone dies in an accident, they will tell you if they were NOT wearing a seatbelt, but not if they were. I find that bias laughably obvious! I think the immediate answer is to elect sherrifs that simply will not allow their Deputies to pull anyone over for any of the frivolous violations they have on the book. They have bigger fish to fry than to babysit people not wearing seat belts. Is alcohol, tobacco, pharmaceutical drugs, etc… illegal? No, they are big business, therefor legal!! Yet these things kill FAR more people than not wearing a seat belt. The hypocrisy and double standards stop NOW!!!!!!!!!!