The repeal of Michigan's helmet law for motorcyclists Friday could bring millions in motorcycle-tourist dollars to the state, advocates say. Critics say it will raise health-care costs.
Motorcyclists in Michigan can now ride without a helmet after Gov. Rick Snyder (R) signed legislation Friday repealing a 35-year-old safety requirement.
By backing the bill, Governor Snyder made Michigan the 31st state to provide that option. Motorcyclists who want to ride without a helmet must be 21 and have passed a motorcycle safety course within the past two years. The new requirement also is a boon for the insurance industry: motorcyclists must carry at least an additional $20,000 in medical insurance.
Snyder framed his decision as one of individual liberty: “While many motorcyclists will continue to wear helmets, those who choose not to deserve the latitude to make their own informed judgment,” he said in a statement released Friday.
Safety advocates bemoaned the decision, saying that safety studies show helmet laws lower health-care medical costs and increase public safety.
A March 2012 study by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute in Ann Arbor found that, had the Michigan law been repealed in 2009, the average cost per crash involving a motorcyclist would have increased 48 percent, from $213,770 to $317,031.
Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2008 showed that motorcyclists who do not use helmets are three times more likely to suffer a traumatic brain injury in a crash than those who are wearing helmets.
Tom Constand, a spokesperson for the Brain Injury Association of Michigan in Brighton, said the repeal is “unconscionable.”
However, motorcycle advocates in the state say the change is necessary to boost tourism and that personal safety should be a matter of choice for each rider.