- The Washington Times - Friday, April 13, 2012

Despite safety and cost arguments from the insurance industry and the medical community, Michigan’s Republican Gov. Rick Snyder announced Friday that he had signed into law a repeal of the state’s mandatory motorcycle helmet law.

His nod for repeal comes as welcome news to bikers around the state, many of whom have lobbied the Michigan Statehouse for three decades for the freedom to make their own decisions on helmet protections. Michigan becomes the 31st state in the nation to have an option on helmet use.

“Motorcycle accidents are a very small percentage of accidents overall,” said Vince Consiglio, president of the motorcycle safety and advocacy group ABATE. “Data from other states demonstrates 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.”

Under the new Michigan law, bikers who are 21 years old and who carry $20,000 in additional medical insurance may forgo wearing a helmet. They also must hold the state’s motorcycle endorsement for at least two years or have passed a safety course. If bike passengers want to go without a helmet, they must also be 21 and be covered by an additional $20,000 of insurance.

Opponents to the repeal, including AAA Michigan, say they are disappointed in the governor’s decision on Public Act 98.

In a statement, the AAA Michigan called the governor’s decision “poor public policy” that “will increase motorcycle fatalities and injuries.”

“The governor had earlier indicated he would not be supportive of the helmet law unless it was tied to some form of no-fault auto insurance reform. Because the repeal will result in additional injuries – which will ultimately be paid for by all Michigan motorists – the need is even more critical for changes in the state’s current no-fault system,” the AAA statement urged. The group said that the repeal will likely cause 30 additional motorcycle injuries, 127 more incapacitating injuries per year and $129 million in costs to state residents.

The AAA also urged state motorcyclists to continue to wear helmets to protect themselves against injury.

Detroit Free Press motorcycle writer Mike Brudenell said that he supports choice, but plans to continue wearing his helmet.

“It’s mandatory to wear a helmet in car and motorcycle racing, and a bloody good idea, I think. Cracking one’s skull on a gutter, car or street sign is not in my description of fun,” he said in a story published Friday.

“While helmets haven’t saved every driver from serious injury or even death in the sport, it certainly seems like there would be a lot more fatalities without them,” he added. “Several of my mates over the years have been killed in motorcycle accidents on public roads, and plenty of friends have laid their bikes down. Did helmets save the survivors? I don’t know for sure, but they probably helped ease their plastic surgery bills.”