Michigan Governor Signs Optional Motorcycle Helmet Bill

April 16, 2012

Michigan motorcyclists age 21 and older can ride without helmets if they meet certain insurance and training conditions under new legislation, Gov. Rick Snyder said Friday.

The Republican governor said signed the bill a day earlier, ending a multi-year effort to change state law. Lawmakers had passed repeals of the mandatory motorcycle helmet law before, but the measures were vetoed twice by then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

“While many motorcyclists will continue to wear helmets, those who choose not to deserve the latitude to make their own informed judgments as long as they meet the requirements of this new law,” Snyder said in a statement.

To go helmetless, riders must be at least 21. They must have been licensed to operate a motorcycle for at least two years or have passed a safety course. Motorcyclists would need some additional insurance – at least $20,000 of first party medical benefits coverage – in case they are involved in an accident.

Critics say allowing more riders to go helmetless will add to motorcycle injury and death tolls in Michigan. They also say it will raise insurance costs for all motorists to help cover the increased risks to motorcyclists.

Most states already give motorcyclists the option of riding helmetless under certain conditions. Supporters of allowing that option in Michigan say it could boost motorcycle tours and events in the state.

Many other states in the Great Lakes region already allow for optional motorcycle helmet use.

There had been some question as to whether Snyder would sign the bill.

Snyder had said he wanted to address the helmet law in the context of broader auto insurance reform. But proposals for more sweeping reforms appear stalled in the Michigan Legislature.

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