The law put in place three years ago by Gov. Snyder and the Michigan Legislature allows motorcyclists to decide for themselves whether or not to wear a helmet as long as they meet certain conditions. Though many motorcyclists love the feeling of freedom this gives them and enjoy the right to choose, the Motorcycle Safety Foundation is still recommending wearing an approved helmet as well as other protective gear and clothing, and warns that head injuries are the leading cause of the majority of motorcycle deaths and serious injury.
Conditions to going helmet free include: The driver must be 21 years old, carry at least $20,000 in first party medical benefits and have had a motorcycle endorsement for at least two years, or have passed an approved motorcycle safety course. The laws for passengers are the same except the passenger must carry $20,000 of medical insurance on top of what is required by the driver.
It’s a Reuters report entitled, “Injuries soar after Michigan stops requiring motorcycle helmets”:
In the three years after Michigan repealed a mandatory motorcycle helmet law, deaths and head injuries among bikers rose sharply, according to a recent study.
Deaths at the scene of the crash more than quadrupled, while deaths in the hospital tripled for motorcyclists. Head injuries have increased overall, and more of them are severe, the researchers report in the American Journal of Surgery.
Senior author Dr. Carlos Rodriguez decided to do the study after noticing an abrupt change in the trauma unit at Spectrum Health Hospital in Grand Rapids, where he works.
The first week after the law was repealed in April 2012, he told Reuters Health, “I just could not help but notice the number of patients that had been in motorcycle crashes with no helmet on, which was enormously different in number and volume than we had experienced the weekend before.”
This same study by Dr. Carlos Rodriguez and the American Journal of Surgery showed the increase in helmetless riders who died at the hospital jump from 3% to 10%, and riders dying at the scene went from 14% to 68%, a five times increase. Hospital costs for helmetless riders increased by 32% and according to Dr. Rodriguez, hospitals and taxpayers often wind up footing the bill when riders aren’t properly insured or underinsured.
Now that motorcycle riders are free to make their own decisions about whether or not to wear helmets, riders will hopefully make good decisions based on the facts. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation offers comprehensive information about helmets and motorcycle safety but offers this advice, “helmets work”. They go on to say the helmet myths about helmets breaking necks, blocking vision and impairing vision, are just not true. Perhaps with evidence like this, the governor and legislators will take a second look at this dangerous law.
Harris Law is located in Gaylord, Michigan and serves Otsego, Crawford, Kalkaska, Oscoda, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Emmet, Montmorency, Cheboygan, Chippewa, and Mackinaw Counties.
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