Michigan Motorcycle Helmet Law Repeal Battle Still Under Way

Michigan’s motorcyclists are one step closer to being able to cruise without a helmet –  but Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has an agenda which might prevent him from getting on board.  The Michigan state House passed a bill repealing the state’s law that mandates riders wear protective helmets by a tally of 69-39.

“We’re surrounded by helmetless states, so if somebody wants to travel to the Great Lakes, they’ll oftentimes travel into the Wisconsin area where the Dells are and avoid coming into Michigan. I’ve been on the scenes of accidents and they are tragic – we don’t want to see anybody injured,” said Peter Pettalia, R-Presque Isle. “But we’re trying to increase Michigan’s ability to compete with other states and people traveling on motorcycles don’t come into Michigan because of our helmet law.”

Pettalia supports the change to the law because he believes the current helmet requirement is impeding motorcycle tourism in Michigan.

Pettalia spoke in support of repealing the helmet law. As a former emergency medical technician, Pettalia said people can still wear their helmets if they wish, but  he added that he believes people can drive safely without helmets simply by driving carefully.

Snyder has said in the past that he would consider changing the helmet law as part of a broad effort to reform Michigan’s no-fault auto insurance law, so it appears the status of the controversial repeal will become a political football and part of a power struggle over insurance requirements.

“The governor has been clear and consistent that for him to look at any helmet law repeal it has to take place in context of broader auto insurance reform.”

– Sara Wurfel, spokesperson for Michigan Governor Rick Snyder

Motorcyclists, led by ABATE,  have long pushed for the change, but  insurance companies and health advocates who say repeal will result in increased injuries and fatalities have been consistent in their efforts to block the change.
“The consequences of a person’s decision not to wear a helmet is borne by all of society through higher insurance premiums, lost productivity and increased health care costs,” said Lori Conarton of the Insurance Institute of Michigan.

The House amended a bill that was passed by the Senate by changing a provision requiring motorcycle owners to carry medical insurance.The Senate version required motorcycle riders to carry $100,000 in medical coverage, but the House reduced that amount to $20,000.

The bill now heads back to the Senate for approval.

In addition, the law would also require motorcyclists to be 21 or older, and to have had a motorcycle endorsement on his or her driver’s or chauffeur’s license for at least two years, or to have passed a motorcycle safety class to qualify to ride without a helmet.

Rep. Dian Slavens, D-Canton Township, pushed legislators not to support the bill and said abolishing helmet laws has proved costly in other states.

“When universal helmet laws were repealed in other states, hospital admissions for traumatic brain injury increased 42-80 percent and acute treatment costs more than doubled due to increased injury severity,” Slavens said. “This bill’s proposed $20,000 medical insurance coverage will not sufficiently cover the total initial and long-term costs associated with a serious TBI. How can Michigan’s budget and its citizens absorb the huge financial burden of health care for unhelmeted riders, including visiting out-of-state riders?”

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