You may not be legally required to wear a helmet in Michigan anymore, but doing so could save you from a traumatic brain injury that would change your life.
In 2012, Michigan passed a law revoking its earlier mandatory helmet law. The new law lets riders opt out of a helmet as long as they:
- Are At Least 21 Years Old,
- Have At Least $20,000 In First-Party Medical Benefits; And
- Have Either Held A Motorcycle Endorsement For At Least Two Years, Or Have Passed An Approved Motorcycle Safety Course.
But a recent study led by Dr. K. Tinsley Anderson of the University of Arizona suggests that the law could be bad for young bikers’ health. The study examined nearly 600 riders admitted to the hospital for traumatic brain injury. Dr. Tinsley Anderson then split the riders into two groups: those who lived in states with universal helmet laws, and those where the law was age-limited like Michigan.
The study showed that young motorcyclists in states with universal helmet laws were 2.5 times less likely to suffer a traumatic brain injury than in age-limited states. The study also showed that universal helmet laws were tied to lower average mortality rates from TBI than in age-limited states.
Since the study focuses on young riders, the difference is not because the riders were legally not required to wear helmets. Instead, it is likely due to young, inexperienced riders not understanding the law’s requirements and riding helmet-less when they ought not to. Police will not likely pull over a motorcyclist simply for not wearing a helmet because it can be hard to judge a person’s age while traveling at highway speeds.
According to Co-Author Dr. Bellal Joseph, this study could encourage bikers to wear helmets even when they aren’t required to by law. Of course, Michigan riders can and should choose to play it safe and wear their motorcycle helmets, rather than risk serious injury or death.
But what this study truly shows is that the Michigan legislature’s decision to revoke the universal motorcycle helmet law in 2012 is hurting young bikers. In the year following the new law, motorcycle deaths jumped by 18%. Now this study has shown that young bikers are 2 ½ times more likely to suffer traumatic brain injury, a complex and disabling injury often requiring years of rehabilitation as a direct correlation to that change in the law. In some cases, the cost of treating those injuries are passed on to Michigan drivers and tax payers through the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association and Medicaid.
Universal motorcycle helmet laws are not just a good idea. They can save lives. If you believe young Michigan riders deserve to be protected, contact your representative and urge him or her to put the law back. Only a mandatory helmet law will save riders lives. Anything less is hazardous to their health.
David Christensen is a no-fault auto accident attorney for Christensen Law in Southfield, Michigan. He and his team help the victims of motorcycle accidents recover their medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages from insurance companies and at-fault drivers. If you or someone you know has been the victim of a motorcycle accident, contact Christensen Law today for a free consultation.