Michigan became the 31st state to give motorcyclists the option of wearing a helmet under legislation signed by Gov. Rick Snyder on Friday.
Senate Bill 291, sponsored by state Sen. Phil Pavlov, R-District 25, lets motorcyclists choose whether to wear a helmet if they are at least 21 years old, carry additional insurance and have passed a motorcycle safety course or have had their motorcycle endorsement for at least two years. Motorcycle passengers who want to exercise this option also must be 21 or older and carry additional insurance.
The legislation was approved with bipartisan support.
“While many motorcyclists will continue to wear helmets, those who choose not to deserve the latitude to make their own informed judgments as long as they meet the requirements of this new law,” Snyder said in a press release. “There is no substitute for proper training, education and awareness when it comes to operating any motor vehicle. We must continue working together to keep our roads safe by making sure that everyone who gets behind the wheel of a car or on a motorcycle has the proper skills. Traffic safety is a responsibility shared by all motorists.”
American Bikers Aiming Toward Education (ABATE), a motorcycle association dedicated to improving safety and driver awareness of motorcyclists on the roads, applauded the new law.
“The problem is, helmet laws have done nothing to improve safety or reduce fatalities or the cost of insurance,” said Vince Consiglio, president of ABATE. “Motorcycle accidents are a very small percentage of accidents overall. Data from other states demonstrate that states that remove mandatory helmet laws do not see an increase in insurance premiums, and states that institute helmet laws do not see a corresponding decrease in insurance rates.
“On behalf of all ABATE’s members statewide and motorcyclists around the country who can now travel into Michigan and enjoy this great state with or without a helmet, I want to extend our gratitude to all of the legislative officials and Gov. Snyder, who courageously supported freedom in the face of an onslaught of baseless and emotional arguments perpetuated by our opponents."
Michigan originally implemented its helmet-use law in 1967 to comply with U.S. Department of Transportation requirements for federal funds. That requirement is no longer in place.