Motorcyclists may soon be allowed to drive without helmets on Michigan roads. Though attempts to repeal Michigan’s 42-year-old helmet law were twice vetoed by former Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm, the law may be nearing its end. There are two bills in Michigan’s Legislature that are attempting to amend the current law. These bills should be passed to give responsible adults more freedom and to set a precedent that the state shouldn’t be overzealous in dictating the safety parameters of an individual’s life.
The proposed law stipulates that motorcyclists who are 21 years or older and posses a $20,000 insurance policy are exempt from a helmet requirement. There is a prevalent fear in the public mind that in the event of an individual being injured as a result of a motorcycle accident, society is inevitably going to have to foot the bill. This argument is being used against the new helmet law, suggesting that an increase in injuries will lead to higher societal costs. It’s unfitting that economics should affect the legal discussion of personal freedom, especially when those impacted are responsible, insured adults. The new law’s insurance policy requirement nullifies the economic issues of the proposed bill and will alleviate the costs that taxpayers may incur due to medical expenses.
An obvious concern regarding the easing of state helmet laws is the safety hazard it would pose to motorcyclists. The National Highway Traffic Safety Association recommends helmets and says they make motorcycle crashes less severe and highly reduce the likelihood of fatalities. According to an April 4 Detroit News article, some motorcyclists claim that helmets are restrictive and limit vision and hearing, which can potentially increase the likelihood of motorcycle crashes. The NHTSA focuses on statistics that deal with helmet safety in the event of a crash, but these statistics do not conclude whether or not crashes are more or less likely to occur for people who wear helmets.
Helmets give necessary protection in the event of a crash, but that does not mean people should be forced to wear them. Properly educated, insured and experienced adult motorcyclists should not be forced to be safe because other people want them to be. Cigarettes and alcohol are universally accepted as detrimental to health and potentially lethal over time, yet they are permitted because their consumption is regarded as an exercise of free choice for adults. Like many other potentially harmful personal choices, motorcycling without a helmet should be allowed.
Motorcycle education and safety information should be provided for individuals attempting to get motorcycle licenses. Safe driving courses and informative policies should guide people to make the best decisions. No one should be forced into an action by an overprotective legal system that does not allow for an individual to make their own decisions. It may be a mistake to ride without a helmet, but it would be a far greater mistake to perpetuate legislation that eliminates personal choice.