Opinion/Editorial

Michigan Eyes Dropping Helmet Law…Again

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Twice now Michigan has come close to repealing its helmet law for motorcycles, with both instances being vetoed by Democrat Gov. Jennifer Granholm. But now with Gov. Granholm no longer in office, and with Republicans also having control over the legislature, the stars have seemingly aligned for the state’s riders to make another bid on nixing the law.

I should preface that there are two separate proposals being lobbied in Michigan. First there is House Bill 2008, submitted by Rep. Richard LeBlanc, and the Michigan State Senate has its own bill to contend with, Senate Bill 291, which is co-sponsored by five Democrat and twelve Republican State Senators. The bill in the Senate is your typical approach to helmet laws, and holds that anyone who is over 21, and has either passed a motorcycle safety course, or had a motorcycle endorsement for two years, can ride a motorcycle without a helmet.

Besides being completely impractical in nature (God only knows how Michigan will be distinguishing these riders from others who don’t meet the criteria), it’s the same old “personal liberty” argument that stands on ideology and not pragmatism…sorta like teaching abstinence to hormone infested teenagers, and then expecting them to not have pre-marital sex.

However Rep. LeBlanc’s proposal shows some actual novel and carefully considered provisions, which should be favored over the Senate’s bill if I had to endorse a side…which I’m not. House Bill 2008 would allow motorcycle riders 21 years of age or older to ride without a helmet if they carry at least $20,000 in personal injury insurance, which would go towards covering the costs of medical expenses. Still a tough law to actually enforce, the idea at least attempts to weigh the personal liberty of riding a motorcycle sans helmet with the social burden of the body politic having to pay for all the king’s men having to put Humpty-Dumpty back together when he crashes his motorcycle again.

Like all anti-helmet debates, there comes the misguided and truthfully moronic statements which emanate from our legislatures on this issue. “What I’ve been told is they can see and hear better (without) a helmet,” said Sen. John Gleason (D-Flushin) talking to The Detroit News. “Most of the accidents that occur are cars hitting bikes, and it gives them a better defense.”

For those that didn’t take high school debate, this is the “a good defense means a strong offense” line of reasoning, which clearly trumps “the best way to defend your head is by putting a helmet on it” school of thought. This is right up there with the idea that if you don’t wear a seatbelt, you’ll be thrown clear of the crash, and thus be safer while driving a car. This mindset was great in the 1960’s when we thought avocado colored furniture was the business, but it’d be nice to think in 50 years we’ve progressed a bit farther than this.

If we’re going to just make things up while examining the issue of anti-helmet laws, I suggest we start spreading the fact that riding without a helmet causes impotency, an issue that plagues the anti-helmet contingency with far greater vigor than the impediment of personal freedom of a fiberglass protective device.

But honestly, it’d just be great if we could all mature as an industry, and realize how asinine some of these arguments are becoming. Let’s at least pretend like we’re not a bunch of toothless high school dropouts with nine kids (not that there’s anything wrong with that, you were probably taught abstinence in high school and are suffering as a result of it), and instead let’s have an honest debate about safety, public policy, and the real burden of anti-helmet laws.

A great starting point for this debate would be the $129 million a year the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning estimates these proposals would cost Michigan tax payers in medical pay outs if motorcycle riders in the Great Lake State could ride without a lid. There’s nothing wrong with having others pick up the tab on your personal freedom, right?

Source: The Detroit News

Jensen Beeler

Despite his best efforts, Jensen is called one of the most influential bloggers in the motorcycle industry, and sometimes consults for motorcycle companies, whether they've solicited his expertise or not.

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