Motorcycle Helmet Law: Where Do You Stand?
Vicki Briganti – CW50 Writer / Producer / Editor
In honor of the last day of Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, here I am posing on my Yamaha Riva 125. Posing. I’m not even riding the scooter. See what I’m wearing? A helmet.
This picture was taken in the summer of 2001 when I first bought the scooter and riders were required to wear helmets. But guess what? Even though a Michigan law was passed revoking the helmet law, I’m wearing my helmet. Always.
According to the law signed by Gov. Snyder in April, motorcyclists can forgo a helmet if they are at least 21 years old, carry at least an additional $20,000 in medical insurance and have either passed a motorcycle safety course or had their motorcycle endorsement for at least two years. Passengers also must be 21 or older to go helmetless, and there has to be an additional $20,000 in insurance for the passenger, bought either by the passenger or the motorcycle driver. (The Detroit News)
Part of me is torn by this law. I support individual freedom. The government shouldn’t impose limits on my choices. Many motorcycle riders enjoy the wind in their hair (or on their bald head). It’s much like the feeling you get riding on a speedboat. But. The reality is: accidents happen. Maybe it’s your fault; maybe it’s not. It won’t matter when your helmetless bald head is dragging across the cement.
When riding in a car, you’re protected on all sides by metal and airbags, yet there are many rules to follow, especially involving children’s safety. A cop pulled me over for slinging my seat belt under my arm. Yet, on a motorcycle, I not only don’t have to wear a seat belt, I don’t have to wear a helmet. Seriously? I can get a ticket in Kensington Metropark riding on my bicycle or inline skating on a paved path if I’m not wearing a helmet. It’s less restrictive to jump on the back of Spike’s new BMW sans helmet and race down I-696 at 70 mph. With Spike, it’ll likely be 140 mph.
Roll Me Away
Everyone knows someone who knows someone who was hurt or killed in a motorcycle accident. What if tragedy could be avoided with a helmet? In some cases, it wouldn’t help. But what if in some cases — like mine — it could?
I was in a motorcycle accident. I have permanent scars. It was a warm Friday night. We were on a residential Royal Oak side street, not going very fast, but I was thrown off the back of a Honda Shadow. My jeans were torn. I had road rash. I thought my leg was broken. The bike was in the shop for a month. What if we’d been going faster? We both fell off and rolled in the street. What if we hadn’t been wearing helmets? We were lucky we weren’t rolled away on a stretcher.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the feeling of freedom when riding. Nothing says “Michigan summer” quite like cruising the back roads at sunset on the back of a Harley listening to Seger’s Greatest Hits. “Gotta keep rollin’, gotta keep ridin.’”
I hate to think cyclists need the experience of falling off their bikes to decide to wear a helmet. Some have fallen and will ride without a helmet. In the end, the change in the law doesn’t matter. You can still make the choice to protect yourself. “It’s all up to you to decide.”
Motorcycle enthusiasts: How do you want to “roll away tonight?”
>> More Motor City Musing With Vicki Briganti
*lyrics in quotes from Roll Me Away by Bob Seger