SIDNEY — A Michigan law that had been in effect since 1977 was officially repealed earlier this month, directly impacting motorcyclists across the state.
On April 12, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder officially signed a bill that removed the requirement of wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle.
Michigan becomes the 31st state to adapt such a law, and that law came with much bi-partisan support from the house and senate floors, including the vote of State Rep. Rick Outman, R-Six Lakes.
“I voted for it only because I struggle with being told whether I should or shouldn’t (wear a helmet),” Outman said during Monday’s Legislative Luncheon at Montcalm Community College. “I think it needs to be an individual decision. I don’t know if you’re particularly bright if you’re riding while not wearing a helmet, but it’s still a choice.”
The bill was put together with much input from the American Bikers Aiming Toward Education (ABATE), a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the overall rights and promoting the safe operating practices of all Michigan motorcyclists.
ABATE legislative officer Chuck Cross, who represents Montcalm, Mecosta, Osceola, Isabella and Claire counties, said he is glad to finally see the law overturned after fighting it for so long.
“I think it’s a positive thing, I’m pleased with it and I’ve been fighting it for 20-some years,” he said. “I’m going to take advantage of it.”
Cross said the new law comes with strict mandates in order to help create the safest environment possible for riders who decide they do not want to wear a helmet.
“Unfortunately you can’t legislate stupidity and there are going to be accidents, but efforts have been made to help make the roads safer,” he said.
According to Cross, riders must be 21 years of age and are required to carry $20,000 of first party medical benefits coverage on every bike they own in order to ride without a helmet. Riders must also have a cycling endorsement for two years or have taken a motorcycle rider safety course.
“I encourage any new motorcyclists to take the motorcycle rider’s safety course,” Cross said. “It’s a three-day course and it only costs $25. They provide the bike and the gas, all you have to bring is your own safety equipment. It’s well worth it and I wish everybody would take it.”
Cross said he believes the change in legislation will officially bring more tourism back into Michigan.
“I think it’s going to bring tourism back into the state because most motorcyclists from out of state can legally ride without a helmet and have been able to do so for several years,” he said. “They would not buy a helmet just to drive into our state. You can prove that simply by talking to people and asking how many bikes from out of state you saw — none.”
Outman said though he didn’t have any official numbers on the subject of increased tourism, ABATE representatives have told him the previous law “had been preventing tourism in our state because people hit our state line and they circled around.”
State Sen. Judy Emmons, R-Sheridan, said the state is not telling riders not to wear a helmet and that she would choose to wear a helmet if she were ever to ride a motorcycle.
“We’re not telling them they shouldn’t wear a helmet, they can still choose to wear a helmet,” she said. “If I were out riding, I’d be wearing a helmet. When you’re on a motorcycle there’s nothing between you and what you hit. Yes, it’s a choice, and we’ll see how it plays out.”