Any motorcyclist, 21 and older, with sufficient experience and medical insurance may ride without a helmet in Michigan. The law requiring all riders, including passengers, to wear helmets was repealed in 2012. According to a 2014 report in Bridge Magazine, the percentage of state motorcyclists wearing helmets dropped from 96 percent, just before the mandatory helmet law was scrapped, to 74 percent.
Helmet use is optional for adult operators with at least $20,000 of medical insurance, who’ve passed a certified safety course or had a motorcycle endorsement for at least two years. Passengers may choose not to wear helmets if they are 21 or older and carry separate medical insurance totaling a minimum of $20,000. Helmets must be worn by all motorcycle operators and passengers under 21.
The number of injuries and deaths among Michigan riders increased after the repeal of the helmet law. Unhelmeted riders made up nearly 50 percent of 2013 motorcycle fatalities.
A University of Michigan study analyzed 15,000 bike crashes between 2009 and 2013. Researchers found an additional 71 people were injured and two dozen more were killed annually after the law changed. The study concluded helmetless riders were 1.4 times more likely to be injured and 2.8 times more likely to die in accidents than helmeted riders.
Mandatory medical insurance ensures Michigan riders have some financial protection in case of an accident, but minimum coverage may fall short of the true cost. The economic toll of motorcycle accidents was studied by a Grand Rapids hospital. Medical bills for injured, helmeted riders averaged $11,400 less than costs for riders without helmets — expenses totaled about $32,700 for each unhelmeted victim.
Where does the money come from for medical bills that aren’t covered by insurance and wage losses due to injuries? Injured parties may file legal claims for compensation against negligent drivers who cause car accidents and motorcycle crashes.
Source: Michigan Secretary of State, “Motorcycle Helmet Use in Michigan,” accessed Aug. 06, 2015