Tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of the motorcycle Mandatory Helmet Law.
Thanks to Mother Nature, many riders haven’t had a chance to hit the roads regardless of their stance. But when the snow finally melts, bikers will have to decide which way they lean.
Here are the facts:
According to the Governors Highway Safety Association 47 states have a helmet law. Of those 47, 19 have a universal requirement for all riders and the remaining 28 have specific regulations. Only Iowa, Illinois, and New Hampshire leave the decision in the riders’ hands.
Michigan falls under the umbrella of states with specific regulations.
On the 13th of April last year, Governor Snyder signed off on the repeal of the Mandatory Helmet Law. In order to qualify, riders had to meet a certain criteria.
“Be at least 21 years of age, two years of experience riding with an endorsement or passed a safety course, as well as carrying $20,000 in medical coverage on their policies,” stated Ryan Nummela, an account advisor at Elder Agency.
“I got the insurance last year. A few years before that I had a terrible accident and I wore a helmet. But I thought, everyone else is doing it, so I won’t wear one either,” remembered Tom Genaw, a 56 year motorcycle veteran.
Bikers like Tom have a half a century’s worth of experience to pull from. For them, the essence of riding comes down to one component:
“The freedom once you get on a bike. If you had a problem that day, you get on the bike and just forget about it. The open air, it doesn’t necessarily have to go through your hair, but just being out there and being free. You’re almost on the bike singing. I do anyway, ” Tom remarked.
But sometimes that freedom comes at price.
“You know on turns and that, that’s how I went down. The first thing I hit was my head, and I think I went out, well according to my wife, for a few minutes. I didn’t realize what had happened. I had to have someone explain to me what happened. I knew I had an accident, but I didn’t know I was out,” explained Tom.
And Tom’s not alone in his concerns.
“Well having been clobbered a couple of times, by inattentive motorists, I would caution all of my fellow riders as the season begins, to pay particular attention,” recommended Frank Donckers, the Director of the Superior Chapter of the Harley Owners Group.
“So I keep thinking back to that every time I get on the bike. There’s no reason for me not to wear one, but anyone who wants to not wear one that’s up to them. I don’t preach to them, but I know I’m going to wear one from now on,” Tom lamented.
Both Tom and Frank have been banged around a bit on the roads, sometimes for reasons, they believe, are out of their control.
And after taking lumps for a number of years, Tom’s ready to make a permanent change.
“If the law comes back I’m glad because they have proved so far that there have been lives taken because of that, more than a year ago,” finished Tom.
Twenty-six to be exact, not to mention an additional 49 fewer injuries. This all according to a University of Michigan study. Without a helmet, you double the risk of death and increase the risk of serious injury by 60 percent.
“From the study, you can conclude that you are safer when you wear your helmet,” confirmed Officer Stacey Rasanen, a Michigan State Trooper.
Otherwise you could be one of the 55 helmetless riders who died in 2012 after the law went into effect. But, for now, that’s up to whoever is at the helm.