Helmet usage on motorcycles has been a long debated issue. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), only 19 states mandate that all motorcycle riders wear helmets. IIHS also states, “Helmets are about 37 percent effective in preventing motorcycle deaths and about 67 percent effective in preventing brain injuries.” This seems like a pretty good reason for motorcyclists to wear a helmet. Yet trends are moving towards states repealing motorcycle helmet mandates and allowing riders to choose.
In the Spring of 2012, Michigan became one of the states to repeal the motorcycle helmet mandate. According to the Secretary of State, Ruth Johnson, for a motorcyclist to legally not wear a helmet three (3) requirements must be met. First, the operator must be over 21. Secondly, they must possess at least $20,000 in medical benefits and third, they have to have had a motorcycle endorsement for two (2) years or completed a state approved safety class. There are also similar requirements for passengers on a motorcycle in the state of Michigan.
So what have these lenient safety laws led to in Michigan? You guessed it, higher injury and fatality rates for motorcyclists. Madeline Kennedy, reporter for Reuters, states in “Injuries soar after Michigan stops requiring motorcycle helmets,” that motorcyclists deaths at the scene of the accident are now four times higher than before the new law, and deaths at the hospital have tripled. The Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning noted in a December 2013 correspondence that helmet wearing has significantly decreased from 2006 at 99.4% to roughly 75%.
I know many motorcycle enthusiasts. All of my friends who ride are careful and safe. However, it’s usually not the person on the motorcycle who causes the wreck. It’s usually the other driver who is distracted and doesn’t see the motorcycle. Motorcyclists need to wear helmets, not because they’re not careful, but because other people on the road are not paying attention. Bikers may not like it, but it’s better than becoming the next statistic, as shown by the change in Michigan’s helmet law.