Motorcycle riders ditching helmets due to law

Published 7:04 pm Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Nearly three-quarters of motorcycle riders in Michigan still wear helmets,  although that is down from 99.4 percent in 2006 when the last statewide observation survey was conducted. The most recent survey was conducted throughout the summer by the Wayne State University Transportation Research Group.

This rate closely mirrors the 74.7 percent helmet use rate among crash-involved motorcyclists.

“While Michigan’s helmet law has been modified, riders are strongly encouraged to always wear safety gear and be seen by wearing high-visibility gear or clothing,” said Michael L. Prince, director of the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning.

Helmet use was highest for those riding sport bikes at 94.5 percent. It was lowest for riders of choppers and custom bikes at 33.3 percent. Women were more likely to wear a helmet at 59.6 percent, compared to men at 55.2 percent. Riders 60 and older had the highest helmet use rate at 70 percent, while riders 30 to 59 years old had the lowest use rate at 50.8 percent.

Michigan’s mandatory helmet law was modified in the spring of 2012.  To legally ride without a helmet, a motorcycle operator must meet all the following criteria:

• Be at least 21 years old.

• Have at least $20,000 in first-party medical benefits.

• Have held a motorcycle endorsement for at least two years or have passed an approved motorcycle safety course.

The law also allows motorcycle passengers to ride without a helmet as long as they meet all the following criteria:

• At least 21 years old

• Have at least $20,000 in first-party medical benefits insurance in addition to the insurance that is required of the motorcycle operator.

A person younger than 21 years old still must wear a helmet approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation when operating or riding on a motorcycle.