Michigan Eyes Dropping Helmet Law…Again

04/06/2011 @ 7:43 pm, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

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

  • Westward

    They should add the stipulation that you should be employed. That way, when you become a vegetable, at least your health benefits would cover some of the cost, plus the upside, in the event of your death, you will leave behind a job opportunity for someone in need…

    Also, if you are unemployed and in lieu of the $20,000 personal injury insurance, your body is automatically eligible for medical donor programs…

  • Rob L

    Riding sans helmet is crazy,stupid,insane, and vary squid like. I believe the full face lid to be as necessary as good tires, gas and oil. As are proper gloves, coat, pants, boots and so on. Cars are out to kill you. Those who choose not to wear a helmet should have to buy at least $ 1,000,000 personal injury insurance. That way they can take away the $150.00 plus we now pay into the catastrophic fund for the uninsured on each vehicle we insure.

  • Tony W

    Unbelievable, first they make you wear a helmet, next, what, no flip-flops????

    Seriously, most of these idiots without helmets eventually seem to take care of themselves. Usually it starts with, “hey Tiny, watch this!”

  • Johndo

    They should also remove the law to wear a seat belt, allow everyone to carry guns, and make cocaine legal. Ah the american dream….:)

  • spanner

    the stupidity of this proposal is simply mind boggling to say the least! are they serious!?
    my friends dad did some serious damage to himself just riding his bike 10 meters from the driveway back into
    the garage after washing his bike and lost his footing and knocking his head on garage floor when the bike toppled over all whilst at zero speed..
    he ended up in hospital with life threatening injuries. Luckily he has recovered to almost back to normal but
    now suffers from severe head aches and blurred vision at times.
    Here in Australia I believe they are trying to introduce mandatory protective clothing such as approved riding jeans / pants, gloves, boots and jackets to accompany the already required helmet.
    Even considering the fact that nothing in this world is ever 100% perfect and even helmets only offering up to a point limited protection, so many people year round suffer horrific injuries to the rest of their bodies due to not
    wearing appropriate protective gear.

  • Shoey

    Thanks for a great article. I live in WI where there is a state-wide campaign for “Zero deaths on Wisconsin Roads, a number we can all live with.” It has essentially equated to more stringent crackdowns on seatbelt use and DUI.

    As my instructor pointed out to the state conference, this just doesn’t make sense. How can you preach about seat belts (which are law) for the cocoons most people drive in a state with no helmet law. There are also helmet laws for bicycles, but why should kids (or adults) want to wear them when the folks on the “big-boy (or girl)” bikes don’t?

  • Gene

    I can’t understand why so much energy is wasted on the helmet laws. I’d like to have one less regulation, but if I could chose, I’d prefer legalization of the lane splitting. Even ability to bypass stopped traffic on the lights would be a good start and would reduce the danger of being rear ended.

  • It’s very simple, really… the first, most basic rule of safe motorcycle operation starts before you even get on the bike- wearing proper protective gear. Since the most rudimentary safety rule is protective equipment, then it follows that anyone not wearing proper gear is showing lack of basic competence to operate a motorcycle on public roads. If you aren’t showing basic motorcycle competence, you should be ticketed like any other offense.

    Why would this be hard to enforce? ALL motorcyclists riding on public roads should be required to wear a helmet, full coverage protective clothing, gloves, and boots because that’s part of the definition of competent motorcycle operation. It would actually be the easiest thing to enforce- show incompetence, get a ticket. Simple.

    The “freedom” argument is total bunk- there is no “right” to operate ANY vehicle on a public road. Opereation of vehicles on public roads is a privilege granted by the governing authorities, and part of earning and keeping that privilege is showing basic competency. No competency=no privilege.

    Looks like Australia is on the right path…

  • Other Sean

    Where does it end Ton Up Jax? If the roads don’t belong to us, the tax payers, and we have to do whatever the government says to use them, when will ABS and Traction Control be required by law? C’mon man, you want a nanny state? Let the neanderthals kill themselves if they don’t want to wear a helmet.

    Jeez, what a waste of time and energy, “protecting” the lives of people too stupid too protect themselves. It’s not the law’s job to keep everybody alive and well. People not wearing helmets are probably the same people mooching off the rest of us, unemployment, not paying their taxes, etc. Hell with them.

  • JZ!

    The “freedom” argument is total bunk- there is no “right” to operate ANY vehicle on a public road. Opereation of vehicles on public roads is a privilege granted by the governing authorities, and part of earning and keeping that privilege is showing basic competency. No competency=no privilege.

    By Our Constitution, we are afforded the right to unencumbered “private use” travel by the means of the day so, the whole argument of what is a right and a privilege is “Bunk” We surrendered the “right” when government was allowed to pass laws effectively calling our “rights” privileges. That’s a whole different and lengthy debate.

    I can assure that insurance companies don’t pay for a dead mans injuries and that if you crunch the numbers, you’ll find they make out quite a bit better when there are no helmet laws as opposed to when there are. Otherwise they’d be lobbying and screaming at the top of their lungs cause as we all know the insurance giants have no lack of funds when it come to protecting their bottom line.

    I ‘m all for keeping government out of our personal lives but am also an adamant proponent of responsibility and accountability. You make a decision….live or die with the consequence..period.

    I’ve skidded down the payment at +100 mph before and got right up and out of harms way with nary a scratch. (close course …..of course )Helmets and gear work. No doubt about…. and If you choose to ride without a helmet I could care less. It’s your gourd and your choice Be it however foolish.

  • JZ!

    “I can assure that insurance companies don’t pay for a dead mans injuries ”

    Just to clarify………… Lets just say pays out less for a dead mans injuries as opposed to long term rehab/recovery ad nauseum of a of a survivors.

  • Gene

    JZ iz right. Government knows better how to make safe choices for citizens. But he doesn’t go far enough. Even with AGTATT motorcycles are many times more dangerous than cars. So they should be outlawed. While at it let’s forbid mountain climbing, scuba diving, and half of other sports. We must stay safe and not pay for injuries of some idiots.

  • There is much to infuriate real motorcyclists here, not least that while the AMA talks the helmet talk, it walks the ‘freedom to ride’ line. Yes, the AMA routinely lobbies or at least lends moral support to such ‘no helmet’ legislation. Argh.

    I wish that real riders could get out ahead of this $#!+ once and for all. I’d love us to abandon the rearguard action of trying to make people understand that helmets are a reasonable restriction on ‘freedom’. Our preaching on this is only heard by the choir anyway. (How many A&R readers ride without helmets? Less than a dozen. Oops, one just offed himself in a 25 mph crash. Now, less than 11.)

    I’d rather have us proposing legislation in ‘no helmet’ states that says, “Look, we’ll all wear helmets, just let us lane-split.” We’ll all be safer, spend less on emergency services, save money on health care and we’ll all also get where we’re going a bit faster, saving fuel and reducing global warming. (Yes, by taking motorcycles out of the traffic column, riders get where they’re going quite a lot faster, but so does each car in the traffic column get there a tiny bit faster.)

  • Marshall

    I’m with Gene on the lane splitting – I don’t know any rider in their right mind who would choose no helmet requirement over the ability to split lanes! I started riding in CA, now live in MI. If the lack of twisty roads and mountains wasn’t bad enough, not being able to split lanes makes this one lame state to ride a motorcycle in.

    Anyways, if there’s a way to make helmetless riders financially accountable for cleaning up the brains they smear all over the roadways, then they should be able to ride without helmets. If that’s feasible or not I have no idea, but at least the health insurance bit shows a bit of effort on the lawmakers’ parts.

    I feel genuinely sorry for your friend who had the driveway accident, Spanner, but what’s your point? Are we supposed to wear helmets within 10 feet of our bikes to prevent accidents like that? I can see both sides of the argument when it comes to riding on public roads, but accidents like your friend’s will always happen and serve as reminders that HEY… the real world is ruled by the laws of physics, not government, so you better use your head and cover your ass!

  • Again, the “freedom” argument comes down to simply- “you can’t make me”. Why is this? The simple question is: “Do you, or do you not believe wearing proper safety equipment is the first rule of safe motorcycle operation?” Very few people argue against this statement- its logic speaks for itself. If you accept that it is, why would you argue against it?

    Now, for those wishing to be “left alone”, do you also believe that participants in
    equestrian sports, football, baseball, ice hockey, cycling, bobsleigh, ski-jumping, sky diving, mountaineering, fencing… (you get the picture) should be able to “choose” whether or not to wear protective gear? No? Why not? Is it because their “sport” is regulated, and in order to play you must abide by the rules. Got a problem with that?

    The argument that public roads should not be regulated, or that it goes against our constitutional rights… well, I’ve got no comment for those folks. The truth is that operating vehicles on public roads is a privilege, and will remain a privilege- whether you like it or not. This discussion is about safety and competency, and I support laws that enforce both.

    If someone wants to ride incompetently, that’s fine with me- but I believe there should be a penalty for it. And this penalty should be in the form of a ticket or fine, because that’s a lot less painful than the alternative…

  • Other Sean

    Ton Up, I’m a health nut. I don’t put soda, cake, pizza, ice cream, chips, any of that in my mouth. Technically, it’s better for you, but it’s nobody’s place, including the goverment, to tell you what to eat.

    Just because something is the right,smart, safe thing to do, doesn’t mean it should be legislated.

  • I have no problem if they want to eliminate the helmet law; I say let nature take its course. Real riders know that helmets and proper gear are MANDATORY (as I sit here staring at my Tourmaster jacket, pants, Shoei helmet, and Alpinestars boots that I wear everyday commuting). Natural selection is a powerful thing.

    I agree 1000% on lane splitting. It’s the #1 reason I’m in California (#2 being twisty roads). Oregon is close to passing it, I think Texas has a law under consideration again. I need to write my Nevada legislature about it (I have family there).

  • Bruce Monighan

    I take the simple position that if everybody in the country has accepted the fact that it is ok to mandate seatbelts for “personal” safety then it is ok to mandate helmets for motorcyclists.

    Or…. they could require seatbelts on motorcycles just to be really equal!

  • Chris

    They need to outlaw these damn 180hp motorcycles too they’re dangerous. What do we need a bike that can go over 65mph really. Hell these two wheelers will never be as safe as my Volvo people are going to get hurt on them. I dont want my tax dollars paying for these fools that ride motorbikes. I say ban them all!

  • Chris

    By the way spanner your friends dad should where a helmet any time he is standing on a hard surface.

  • Gene

    Ton Up Jax,
    We have enough government nannies already. Do you want them to regulate everything? Have you happened to read “1984”? In that book everyone had to do morning exercises under video monitoring, for their own health, of course. I’m not sure that the sports you mentioned are actually regulated. I know that in my state I can ride a bicycle without any equipment. I also tried to google for the ice hockey regulations and came up with nothing. Scuba certifications are self imposed by the industry, if you want to dive with tour providers, you have to get certified. However no one forbids you to buy your own gear and do whatever you want with it. This is the approach I support.
    The bottom line is that adults must have the right to decide for themselves.

  • Westward

    I agree with Bruce Monighan.

    As for government, I believe it has the responsibility to enforce a minimum reasonable safety measure for the good of the individual
    with respectful consideration of the whole of society.

    But like seat belts it’s the equivalent in reasonable safety for motorcycles…

    But,I would also like to add, that lane-sharing as it’s called in California, does save lives, more so than the myth of loud pipes…

  • Phil Ross

    I’ve ridden with a helmet, mostly, for thirty years, even when I’m in helmet-optional states. For me, it’s as much about comfort and convenience as it is about safety. I’m of mixed opinion when it comes to legislating helmets, however. It’s such an easy way to instantly assess the experience and decision-making ability of your fellow riders. It’s one more data point for people like me who are leery of joining up with unknown riders.

    I’d be happy to take up a collection to put the entire Michigan legislature through a BRC so at the very least they can legislate from a position of knowledge.

  • LutherG

    I have worn a helmet for the 25 years or so I have been riding. The only times I haven’t worn one is when tuning a bike or searching for an engine noise. Ok i lied, the wife and i rode without helmets on the grounds at vintage days.
    I used to hang around with bikers who ascribed to the “no helmet, Loud pipes” garbage. None of them are riding anymore. They are all dead, crippled, or out of bikes altogether because they can’t ride anymore. I’m still riding, and even picked up an 06 Speed triple this year.

    The fact is that closed head injuries resulting from low speed crashes cost over 1.3 million in rehabilitation costs per person. A high speed crash (over 35mph) is almost always fatal, and costs (assuming no significant life insurance) several hundred thousands in survivor’s benefits.

    So, i think you should be allowed to not wear a helmet as long as you and every member of your family opt out of the social security survivor’s benefits fund, the state fund for children’s healthcare, state paid rehabilitation.

    Yes, I wish we had lane splitting here in Indiana. Frankly, I’d be happy not to be targeted by cops, and be allowed to park without constantly getting tickets for 2 in parking space, improper parking, too far off curb, etc.