It looks like Michigan may become the 31st state in the Union without a mandatory motorcycle helmet law for all riders. Michigan passed one of the first laws requiring helmets back in the 1967, repealed it in 1968, and reenacted it in 1969. A recent bill overturning that law just passed the state legislature, and is awaiting signature by the Governor.
The Michigan bill, if enacted, would require helmets only by riders over 21-years-old, and requires motorcycle riders to have $20,000 in no-fault PIP insurance (which would pay for up to $20,000 of the driver's medical bills following an accident).
There are competing concerns: One the one hand, some motorcyclists want the freedom "to ride with the wind in one's hair." On the other hand, proponents of mandatory helmets want to protect people who aren't going to protect themselves, and don't want to have to pay for people who are injured in motorcycle accidents and become burdens on taxpayers.
Some people believe that this is just another example of the government getting its mitts into things that it should leave alone. On the whole, those people believe that if a motorcyclist chooses to ride without a helmet, the only person who could be hurt is the rider.
The reality is, like mandatory seatbelts, motorcycle helmets save lives and often prevent devastating injuries. Before long, guess who is paying the bill for motorcycle riders who are injured without helmets? You and me. What about the family members who depended on the motorcyclists job? If they have to receive public benefits, who has to pay that bill? You and me. Not to mention that a needless death or injury is, quite frankly, needless and often preventable.
The Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning anticipates that repealing the mandatory helmet law will result in 30 more deaths and 127 more incapacitating injuries every year.
In Tennessee, where the legislature also considered a repeal of the mandatory motorcycle helmet law this year, Vanderbilt University Medical Center's doctors had something to say: don't do it. They expect that a repeal would result in an additional $1.3 million per year for health care in trauma centers alone. That doesn't include the additional medical care required--sometimes the lifetime of medical care required.
So, you can see which end of the debate we are on. We don't like excessive government, either. But this is legislation of common sense, and it protects more that it hurts. We support these rules, and we're glad that our states have them.
All motorcycle riders in Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Virginia are required to wear helmets. This could change--there is momentum in other states to remove that common-sense restriction. If these bills ever come to our state legislatures, we will be at the front of the line to stand up for safety.
For More Information
- Michigan Radio: Michigan helmet law repeal, bad idea?
- Summary of helmet laws in the United States
- American Journal of Public Health: Paternalism & Its Discontents: Motorcycle Helmet Laws, Libertarian Values, and Public Health
- Maryland Motorcycle Accident Lawyers
- Virginia Motorcycle Accident Lawyers
- District of Columbia Motorcycle Accident Lawyers