If you are a motorcyclist in Michigan, unless you've been living far off the grid in the U.P. for a couple of years, you have heard by now that the state has modified its law requiring riders and passengers to wear helmets. While this may certainly be seen as a win for motorcyclists' rights, it is not one that is without its share of risks.
As the data is beginning to come in from studies on the impact of the repealed law, there has been an increase in vulnerability to motorcyclists, seen primarily by those who are treating them after accident.
Ever since Michigan law was modified to allow for lawful helmetless riding, head injuries among motorcyclists involved in accidents are up by double digits.
What exactly does the law allow?
Much of the media coverage about the new helmet law has used the term "repealed the helmet law," which can be misleading. When most people think about repealing a law, it conjures images of a law being completely stricken from the books.
However, it is more accurate to say that Michigan has modified its helmet law to allow helmetless riding under certain circumstances.
In order to be within the law while riding without a helmet, one must meet several standards.
- The rider must be carrying at least $20,000 of first-party medical coverage. First party benefits are crucial, because they are structured by the provider to be payable regardless of who is deemed to be at fault in an accident.
- The rider must be 21 years of age or older.
- The rider must have passed a motorcycle safety course that is approved by the state OR held a motorcycle endorsement for at least two years.
Also, the law allows for passengers to ride without helmets, but they must also be at least 21 years of age and be carrying an additional $20,000 or more of first-party medical coverage.
What are the real risks?
As anyone who rides a motorcycle can tell you, it is an innately risky endeavor. That is part of what is so glorious about the experience - it's just you and the open road, with the open space everywhere you look.
Of course, this also means that you are traveling much faster than human bodies are built to travel and survive any direct impact. When a motorcyclist is in an automobile accident, it can be similar to what is experienced by pedestrians who are struck by cars in the worst cases, because you are so vulnerable, and potentially moving at a pretty high speed.
Recent studies concluded that since the modification of the helmet law, there has been about a 14 percent increase in head injuries for those involved in motorcycle accidents of all kinds.
At the same time, the amount of injuries by type have changed dramatically. Head injuries that involved skull fractures increased by nearly 40 percent, while mild concussions decreased by nearly 20 percent in the same time period.
However you choose to ride, know whom to call
Ultimately, you are the one who decides which style of riding is best for you. What is vital, of course, is knowing whom to call if you are involved in an accident. Even when carrying the first-party coverage, insurance providers may be reluctant to pay for the care that you need, regardless of whose fault the accident is deemed to be.
It is very wise to have an experienced attorney in your corner so that when the time comes, you know exactly whom to call to fight for your rights and for the care that your deserve.