Governor Signs Helmet Choice Law on April 13th

Michigan joins 30 other states to allow adult choice on helmet use, toughens standards.

After 46 years, Michigan now joins 30 other states in amending the mandatory helmet law in favor of adult choice. The Michigan legislature overwhelmingly approved SB 291 with broad bi-partisan support and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed Public Act 98 into law, yesterday. The new law modernizes Michigan’s outdated mandatory helmet law, which was a holdover from bygone days leaving Michigan, in the minority—one of only 20 states left enforcing an empty federal mandate.

The proposal to update Michigan’s mandatory helmet law was introduced in the Senate by Senator Phil Pavlov (R) St. Clair.

“Every year, millions of dollars leave our state because of Michigan’s outdated mandatory helmet law,” Pavlov said. “This bipartisan plan will keep our dollars here, attract even more tourists to Michigan and help our state in these tough economic times.” Pavlov’s bill also strengthened standards for allowing choice by mandating more stringent provisions then other helmet-free states.

To ride helmet-free, motorcyclists must:

  • Carry at least $20,000 in additional medical insurance.
  • Be at least 21 years old.
  • Have at least two years of riding experience or undergo special safety training.

“We believe that the key to motorcycle safety, accident reduction and injury prevention lies in rider education, car driver awareness and license endorsement,” said Jim Rhoades, Legislative Director for American Bikers Aiming Toward Education, or ABATE of Michigan. “We plan to continue providing certified motorcycle rider safety courses across the state at affordable rates so every rider can be educated before hitting the road.”

The law was written with input from ABATE, a motorcycle association dedicated to improving motorcycle safety and car driver awareness of motorcyclists on the roads. The new law gives Michigan the strictest requirements for riding helmet-free of any state that has modified mandatory helmet laws for adult choice (30 states). Allowing motorcyclists to ride helmet-free could also generate more than $1 billion in direct and indirect revenue, according to a recent Michigan Consultants study.

“The problem is, helmet laws have done nothing to improve safety or reduce fatalities or the cost of insurance,” said Vince Consiglio, President of ABATE of Michigan. “Motorcycle accidents are a very small percentage of accidents overall. Data from other states demonstrate that states that remove mandatory helmet laws do not see an increase in insurance premiums, and states that institute helmet laws do not see a corresponding decrease in insurance rates. It’s never happened. In addition, the leading insurance lobbyist was videotaped testifying before a senate committee last session saying that residents in Michigan will NOT see any rate increase as a result of the passage of this bill. This is yet another reason that we garnered such a large support base from the Michigan legislature.

“On behalf of all ABATE’s members statewide and motorcyclists around the country who can now travel into Michigan and enjoy this great state with or without a helmet, I want to extend our gratitude to all of the legislative officials and Governor Rick Snyder who courageously supported freedom in the face of an onslaught of baseless and emotional arguments perpetuated by our opponents,” Consiglio added.

The Michigan Licensed Beverage Association is a statewide trade association representing bars, restaurants, convenience stores and other class C license holders that also supported a change in the law. “Every year we watch our customers ride into neighboring states and very few motorcycles ride in because of this law. Our members near the Michigan borders are ecstatic!” said Scott Ellis, the Executive Director of the MLBA.

ABATE Michigan has partnered with public schools and private driving instructors to teach more than 75,000 new drivers about motorcycle awareness, using resources donated by ABATE members.

Since 1975, ABATE members have lobbied legislators to modify Michigan’s outdated mandatory helmet law, which was a barrier to motorcycle tourism. At the same time, the previous law did nothing to reduce motorcycle injuries and fatalities.

Statistics about Michigan Motorcyclists from the American Motorcyclist Association

  • 36.5 years of age
  • Married
  • College-educated
  • Average income:
    $57,000/yr for members of American Motorcyclists Association
    $80,000/yr for Harley Davidson owners
  • Most are insured to operate a vehicle and a motorcycle
  • Are responsible law-abiding citizens
  • Have passed motorcycle safety courses
  • Have experience on the road
  • Pay taxes, registration and operating fees
  • Capable of making his/her decision about whether or not he/she should wear a helmet