State helmet use falls in wake of law change

Seventy-three percent of Michigan motorcyclists wear helmets, down from seven years ago when almost all riders used them, according to a state report released Monday.
AP Wire
Dec 17, 2013

Michigan ended mandatory universal helmet use in 2012, letting riders opt out under certain circumstances.

Helmet use varies widely among types of riders, with chopper and custom bike riders less likely to wear helmets and sport bikers more likely, according to the Michigan Office of Highway Safety. Female riders and those under 30 and over 60 also wear helmets more frequently.

Wayne State University's Transportation Research Group conducted a visual check of motorcyclists this summer. Researchers observed 2,584 riders on 2,157 motorcycles at 176 states statewide.

The report says Michigan helmet use is down from 99.4 percent in 2006, the last year there was a comprehensive survey.

Michigan loosened its helmet law April 1, 2012. Until then, all drivers and passengers had to wear helmets. Since then, riders can go bareheaded if they are 21 or older, carry $20,000 in additional health insurance and have two years of riding experience or pass a safety test. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia still have universal helmet laws.

"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," Michael L. Prince, director of the safety office said in a statement. The office is part of the Michigan State Police.

Seventy-nine percent of female motorcyclists wear helmets, compared with 70.6 percent of males, the report said. It said the use rate is 76.9 percent for those ages 16-29, 65.5 percent for ages 30-59 and 73.5 percent for ages 60 and older.

Nationwide, 4,612 motorcyclists were killed and about 81,000 injured in 2011, according to the latest figures available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The estimated rate of helmet use nationally was 60 percent in 2012.

The drop in helmet use in Michigan is starting to show up in accident statistics, the researchers said. There were 109 deaths in 2011 and 129 in 2012.

"As preliminary crash statistics from the 2012 riding season show significant increases in fatal and serious injuries, it appears that changes to the helmet use legislation has resulted in more severe injury outcomes," they wrote. "Based upon these findings, continued efforts are warranted to encourage the use of both motorcycle helmets and high-visibility gear."



Former Grandhavenite

Not wearing a helmet is incredibly stupid, but it's ultimately a matter of personal choice. The state should aggressively promote the wearing of helmets but not require it.

The extra $20,000 in health insurance required is ridiculously low however. When people get into severe motorcycle accidents a lot of times $20,000 will barely cover a few days in the hospital. After that it's the taxpayer, other insurance customers, and the hospitals footing the bill- potentially for the rest of the person's life if they become severely disabled and need to be cared for the rest of their life. Take whatever unnecessary risks you want for the sake of looking cool or feeling the wind in your hair or whatever- just don't make me pay for it.


Well, thanks for telling us what we already know. While I agree that no one, other than the biker, should be having their premiums upped because someone decides to take on more risk, ultimately it still should be up to the individual to make that decision for themselves.

I’d guess you’re not a biker by the tone of your diatribe and a lot of the folks I run across who want to address this topic aren’t bikers either. They rant about the new helmet law because they don’t like bikes or bikers, period. The fact that now they have another topic to p*** and Moan about regarding the bike/biker subject is just icing on the cake.

I’ve had a bike most of my adult life. I love to ride. The last bike trip I took was out to the Badlands of South Dakota, a weeklong trip of almost 3,000 miles. It was a fantastic experience and one that you just can’t get with a car. Now that I’m given the choice, I still wear a helmet 95% of the time. The 5% I don’t would be times like a cruise around town in the evening at a whopping 25mph. I feel safe enough in that situation to go helmetless, but there is still risk involved.

In 40+ years of riding I’ve never had to lay my bike down because I drive my bike like every car on the road is out to get me. Some days that seems to be true and having to ride with that mentality takes some of the fun out of riding, but it’s nice to make it back home at the end of the day too… Life is full of compromises.

I would suggest that if a helmetless biker is in a severe accident as you suggested above that 9 times out of 10 the only expenses that biker will incur is those included in a funeral. So unless you’re sending a card, your expenses will be nil. I know/knew several bikers who were killed while on their bikes WITH a helmet because somebody in a car couldn’t be bothered to take that second look before pulling out. I’d suggest that car driver awareness is a bigger problem than bikers not wearing helmets based on my own personal experience. I don’t need some idiot study to tell me what I already know...

Are you angry about stupid legislation? Let me tell you something that happened before the new helmet law went into effect. You may or may not be aware that back then kids on scooters weren’t required to wear headgear even though bikers were…when I asked about this flawed concept to someone who was “in the know”, I was told that scooters don’t attain the speed of a bike so they didn’t feel it was necessary for scooters operators to wear headgear. Really? Well, tell that to the parents of the kid who got run over by someone who ran a stoplight and plowed him down the road 50 feet. He was only doing 25mph at the time and he still got killed.

Everything in life has incurred dangers. How much protection one deems necessary should be up to that individual. If you don’t like bikes that’s fine, but don’t just blame them wholly for the current situation. If you want to campaign for more legislation, campaign for more driver awareness. Some of the stuff I’ve seen out there would curl your hair. There is much more to biker safety than just the helmet / no helmet debate. Heck, you can get mowed down walking across the street, should we be wearing helmets to walk too? How safe is safe enough?

Sorry for the length, but this is a sore point.

Former Grandhavenite

It doesn't sound to me like there's a whole lot that we disagree on. I don't have anything against bikers, and while I'm not a regular biker myself the few times that I've ridden I've had a blast. I'm all in favor of making biker awareness training a mandatory part of driver's ed. It sounds like we also agree that helmet use should be a personal choice and that those who choose not to wear one should have higher premiums to avoid making other drivers foot the bill.


Yup, I wasn't trying to pick a fight...just wanted to make sure that the whole story gets told.

Driver education is another sore point with me, to the point I've considered starting my own school, but now is not the time financially...maybe in the future.

deuce liti

I personally love south dakota! So beautiful, bridal veil falls is a fave.

I once saw a biker flip whilst going around a corner in the great state of wyoming. No helmet, but a bottle of whiskey and a handgun. He wasn't too banged up, but still was carted off via ambulance. I have no point to this story. My shame is appropriately equal to my blathering.


Yup South Dakota has it's own beauty for sure. I love the big skies and the open range. This isn't the place for long stories, but I did spend an afternoon, unplanned mind the middle of a buffalo herd and it's true, there's no room for rollerskating (old Roger Miller tune for the youngsters). It was an awesome experience, but not one I'd be up for repeating anytime soon. I was basically stuck in place for about 5 hours because I didn't dare fire up the bike and have one of them decide to charge me. I did get some great photos though....I'm stealing your last line because it applies here too....

I have no point to this story. My shame is appropriately equal to my blathering.

deuce liti

They're only motorcyclists, let 'em fall. Contributors to society? Yeah right.


Good lord girl, I sure hope there was suppose to be a smiley face on the end of that! :-O


Uhhh....I believe deuce liti is of the male persuasion......

deuce liti

I am of male apparatus and yeah, I was being sarcastic. My willy goes nilly and I sometimes forget the emoticon to show it.

-Smiling face of the apack-o-lips-


I can use that line (the last one, that is)! :-F (buck-toothed vampire w/ one tooth missing - I don't know why, just seemed appropriate)


Whoops, I wonder how I came up with you as female....hmmm, maybe one of your posts showed your feminine side and I went with it.
Anyhow, my apologies for my confusion.
Good to know you were being sarcastic too!

deuce liti

It's all kettles and biscuits buddy.

I have the cobbles to stay in touch with my feminine side, so I totally understand.

-sliming face-


-sliming face-

...and a bit of dyslexia?


I'll assume we are all concerned with morbidity rates for motorcyclists, as well as the costs incurred in crashes, without or with helmets. Based on this assumption, here are some statistics from the CDC:

1.) By preventing motorcyclist deaths and protecting against injuries, helmet use also translated to economic costs saved. In 2010, approximately $3 billion in costs were saved as a result of helmet use in the United States; however, another $1.4 billion could have been saved if all motorcyclists had worn helmets (NHTSA, unpublished data, 2012). Total costs saved from helmet use ranged from $394 million in California to $2.6 million in New Mexico. Economic costs saved from helmet use per registered motorcycle ranged from $1,627 in North Carolina to $48 in New Mexico, with a median of $286 (Figure 2). Nearly all (23 of the 25) states with costs saved per registered motorcycle below the median had either a partial helmet law or no helmet law. Costs saved in states with a universal helmet law were, on average, nearly four times greater per registered motorcycle than in states without such a law ($725 versus $198).

2.) Additionally, economic cost data from NHTSA were obtained to compare the costs saved as a result of helmet use, by type of state motorcycle helmet law. The findings indicated that, on average, 12% of fatally injured motorcyclists were not wearing helmets in states with universal helmet laws, compared with 64% in partial helmet law states (laws that only required specific groups, usually young riders, to wear helmets) and 79% in states without a helmet law. Additionally, in 2010, economic costs saved from helmet use by society in states with a universal helmet law were, on average, $725 per registered motorcycle, nearly four times greater than in states without such a law ($198).

3.) During 2008–2010, a total of 14,283 motorcyclists were killed in crashes, among whom 6,057 (42%) were not wearing a helmet. In the 20 states with a universal helmet law, 739 (12%) fatally injured motorcyclists were not wearing a helmet, compared with 4,814 motorcyclists (64%) in the 27 states with partial helmet laws and 504 (79%) motorcyclists in the three states without a helmet law.

4.) The findings in this report indicate that fatally injured motorcycle riders were less likely to wear helmets in states that do not have universal helmet laws. During 2008–2010, fatally injured motorcyclists in states with a partial helmet law were more than five times as likely not to have been wearing a helmet as those in states with a universal helmet law (64% versus 12%). Fatally injured motorcyclists in states with no helmet law were more than six times as likely not to have been wearing a helmet as those in states with a universal helmet law (79% versus 12%). In addition, the economic costs saved by helmet use are substantial. The savings in states with a universal helmet law were, on average, $725 per registered motorcycle, nearly four times greater than in states without such a law ($198).

Would someone please explain to me why our legislators were so unconcerned with the higher rates of morbidity and high costs to society that are incurred by the higher rates of moderate to severe brain injuries that are the consequences of the repeal of the universal helmet law, that they were compelled to strip away citizen safety measures.

But then pushed the Rape Insurance law through, based on concerns for life and costs to society?


yet another reason for increased insurance cost in this state...the higher the medical bills the higher our insurances rates will go..not to mention the MCCA fee will certainly increase in july once again.


i think the 73 percent is to high for count and have no idea how they come up with the numbers, anyway, look around ya, observe the bikers that dont wear helmets, more like one out ten wear helmets and i agree, it is crazy not to wear one, as good parents we teach our kids to wear them while riding their bicycles, so why don't the parents do what they preach ?


Does anyone have a hip-shot estimate of how much a week in ICU costs? Is it more than $20,000?
I'll bet it's a lot more, and what about full life support while you lay in a coma as your brain swells it could be that much a day!
Just my good for nothing opinion but to me the MI legislature and Ricky missed the mark. In other countries you are asked to prove you have health insurance in adequate amounts before visiting their country because they do not want you as a liability, perhaps the same could be said for the rider who wishes to go helmet free, prove you have health coverage with a rider for massive brain injury or facial reconstruction and I’m good with it.
I ride almost every day above 40 that's not raining and wear all the pads, carbon fiber and high tech stuff I can find, my noggin and all the accumulated knowledge and memories contained within are worth more than the breeze through my high and tight hair...but again this my choice. I do feel the law as it is will result in the rest of us paying for more hair in the breeze than we should and I’m betting we already have paid more than we think. Remember when the helmet law was in place you saw riders with a thing resembling a plastic Yarmulke that constituted a helmet under the old provisions…really?


Twice in my life I have had the pleasure of seeing a rider's freedom of choice spread out in grey on the asphalt. No more pork rinds for me.


Pleasure? are you sure that's the adjective you want to use???

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