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Michigan law lets you choose whether to wear a helmet or not

In a move that many saw as upholding personal rights, the state of Michigan changed a long-standing law regarding motorcycle helmets in 2012. For decades, Michigan law required the use of Department of Transportation approved helmets by those driving motorcycles and mopeds on public roads. Lawmakers choose to repeal that law in 2012, allowing for some bikers to eschew helmets on the road.

The change in law has lead to a massive increase in motorcycle drivers not wearing helmets and an increase in crash fatalities, often involving a driver without a helmet. While the law in Michigan no longer requires that you wear one, doing so could protect your life or help reduce the risk of debilitating brain injuries if you get into a crash.

There are restrictions on who can ride without a helmet

Michigan state lawmakers didn't completely lift restrictions on the need for head protection when operating or riding on a motorcycle. There are conditions to legally operate a motorcycle in Michigan without a helmet. The rider must be over the age of 21. They must have their license for at least two years and must carry an extra $20,000 in medical insurance coverage in case of a crash.

Many people who do not qualify to ride without a helmet, because they just got their license or don't carry extra insurance, may choose to do so anyway. That choice could leave the person without adequate insurance coverage in the case of a crash. It could have other negative consequences, too.

Bikers take big risks driving without protection

Prior to the repeal of the law, 14 percent of drivers who died at the scene of a crash in Michigan were not wearing helmets. From 2012 to 2014, that percentage increased to 68 percent of crash site fatalities. Research into crashes involving non-helmeted drivers also showed an increased number of life-threatening head injuries, the overall severity of injuries, longer stays in the hospital and bigger bills for their medical care.

While many bikers may enjoy the feeling of the wind on their faces or the freedom of riding without the weight and constriction of a helmet, the overall cost of doing so could prove staggering. Those who operate or ride on motorcycles without proper head protection increase their risk of sustaining debilitating and permanent brain injuries or even dying in the event of a crash.

Choosing to wear a helmet when you get on a motorcycle, especially in adverse weather conditions, at night or at times with busy traffic, can be the difference between walking away from a crash and losing everything. Although the law may no longer compel bikers to wear helmets, it is still the best decision to make.

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