Helmet law voided for people over 21

By Ian KullgrenOriginally Published: 04/16/12 11:02pm Modified: 04/18/12 12:00am 9

As warmer weather rolls in, student motorcyclists will be able to feel the wind rushing through their hair for the first time.
A new law, effective last week, allows motorcyclists to ride without helmets, ending the nearly 50-year-long safety requirement.
But there are some ground rules. The law, signed by Gov. Rick Snyder last Thursday, only lifts the mandatory helmet requirement for motorcyclists who are over 21 years old. It also requires them to have two years’ experience (or pass certain state safety courses) and to carry more health insurance.
Lawmakers have been clear that the law only affects motorcycle riders — moped riders still are required to wear helmets if they are under the age of 19.
Advocates of the law say it is designed to give qualified riders more freedom.
“The intent is they’ve gotten a couple years’ experience,” Snyder spokesman Terry Stanton said.
Political science freshman John Rizqallah, who owns a motorcycle, said he agrees with the law’s purpose but plans to continue riding with a helmet even after he turns 21 in September.
“I’m going to keep my helmet on; I’m not trying to die,” Rizqallah said. “I don’t believe in trying to control people’s lives, … they’re not endangering anyone else’s lives by not wearing a helmet.”
A 2007 study by the Office of Highway Safety Planning estimated a repeal of the helmet requirement would result in a nearly 26 percent increase in motorcycle accident deaths and about a 17 percent increase in incapacitating injuries, adding about $129 million in economic costs.
The law requires riders must carry at least $20,000 in medical insurance. A legal update from the Michigan State Police issued on Friday said the law does not require riders to carry proof of the extra insurance.
Some argue consumers still will pay more to cover increased injuries. Under Michigan’s no-fault insurance policy, injured motorcycle drivers can collect money for accidents involving another car, Insurance Institute of Michigan spokeswoman Lori Conarton said.
She said this effectively will drive up costs for all consumers in the insurance pools, although it’s not clear how much.
“Other states that have repealed their helmet laws have increased injuries and deaths,” Conarton said. “That will drive up what everybody pays for insurance.”
Both MSU and East Lansing police have motorcycle patrols, although officers still will be required to wear them as part of department policy. “Personally, I would not go without a helmet,” said MSU police Sgt. Shaun Mills, head of the unit. “It’s a safety issue, to me it’s obvious.”
East Lansing police also will be required to wear helmets, Capt. Kim Johnson said.

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