US Governer signs law relaxing helmet use

Michigan riders over 21 can ride without a helmet once more

Posted: 13 April 2012
by Visordown News

Keep a lid on it?

Next year will mark 40 years since motorcycle helmets became mandatory in the UK. It's unthinkable that this law would ever be relaxed whilst riders across the pond have very different views on the matter.

Laws vary across the pond in the US, with some states requiring no helmet to be worn. Other states have laws that allow no helmets if you meet certain age and medical insurance restrictions. For the last decade it has been mandatory to wear a helmet in Michigan, but Governer Rick Snyder has recently signed into law a bill that will allow riders in that state to feel the wind through their hair once again.

From a UK law perspective this certainly feels like a step backwards but US citizens have always felt very strongly about their freedom. Synder says "there is no substitute for proper training, education and awareness when it comes to operating any motor vehicle" but whilst riders over 21 (with appropriate insurance) can now ride without a helmet, car drivers must stay buckled up or risk a ticket.

So is the freedom to leave that helmet at home a good idea or is this a case where making your own decisions could be bad for your health?

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Can you imagine the insurance premium if you had to tick the box that says 'does not wear a helmet'

Posted: 13/04/2012 at 17:40

imagine a bug splat at 70+mph :O

Posted: 13/04/2012 at 18:30

As a US rider that has, on rare occasions, ridden without a helmet, all I can really say is that I am in the "it should be a rider's choice" camp. If I want to partake in a risky behavior and the only person endangered is yours truly, the government has no business telling telling me that I cannot willingly embrace that risk. Riding a motorcycle without a helmet is less socially irresponsible than unprotected sex, and last I checked, that's still legal...thank goodness. :)

Posted: 13/04/2012 at 18:52

I live in Minnesota, where helmets are only required for those under the age of 18. There is a very clear divide between touring/commuting riders (who all wear a lid and at least some gear) and the squid/pirate crowd who do not.

18-year-old on an R6 in flip flops, shorts, no shirt, and oakleys? We have those.

Leathery old broad on a $20k cruiser wearing a tank top and $5 gas station shades? Yes, we have those as well.

I'm the dork in a full suit with a modular lid, riding a Fazer with a topcase, and I'm extremely outnumbered. That said, the circles I travel in won't so much as ride to the next Starbucks with a clown that doesn't wear a lid.

Posted: 13/04/2012 at 18:54

I am a bi-coastal US guy in NY and California. I think riding a motorcycle without a helmet is a horrible decision. I think there is a very large community of riders here in the US that understand the risks and rewards of motorcycling. Like Mike said, it seems the like minded stick together. Those no helmet, tank top wearing, flip flop sporting riders don't seem to last long anyway. (Opinion from a mid 20's motorcyclist who rides everything from a HD soft tail to an Aprilia supermoto.)

Posted: 13/04/2012 at 19:19

The cost of "risky behavior" is not always measured by direct injury to yourself or to another person. Freedom is great, until you crash and receive a less-than-fatal head injury that leaves you disabled. Then your 'freedom' becomes a burden on us all.

Posted: 13/04/2012 at 23:51

There are no states that are " requiring no helmets to be worn" rather there are states that don't require a helmet to be worn. The first makes it sound like you aren't allowed to wear a helmet. Anyhoo... I don't believe in helmet or seatbelt laws. I almost always wear my helmet or seatbelt but it someone doesn't want to, who cares, they will only hurt themselves.

Posted: 14/04/2012 at 01:39

Oh Boo Hoo, you poor thing.

Posted: 14/04/2012 at 04:47

For me its a cultural thing: I live in Indiana where 95% of riders dont wear lids. Do these riders REALLY love motorcycles? To me they dont. Would the lidless riders ever attend a MotoGP race or ever pined for time off to buy a BMW GS or KTM Adventure or hell, a Honda CG125 and tour the world on their bikes? Probably not. I could go on, but the only similarity b/w me and these lidless riders is the fact that we ride motorcycles. And even then these guys from what i've seen aren't ultimately that enthusiastic about motorcycles, just Harlies (or occasionally sportbikes).

I have no problem w/ choosing to remain lidless on short rides or whatever and I've even done it, but some of these fvckers dont even OWN helmets. Like seriously, WTF?! The other day it was a bit chilly and some w4nker was riding at around 40mph w/o a lid. Whats the point of that? Why not wear a lid where its comfortable? When not wearing a lid becomes a habit its a problem imho. I think if someone pulled up to an American biker bar in a no-lid state on a KTM Adventure wearing Gore Tex or a guy pulled up on an 1199 in full leathers, these 'real Muricans" would probably be more shocked than even the average mom in a grocery store. And that my friends, is sad.

Posted: 14/04/2012 at 04:50

Nothing in life is guaranteed. Just as a person of legal age is free to consume alcohol, tobacco, or even sugary foods, they should be free to ride helmetless. The burden put upon the healthcare industry by those three vices alone supasses that of vegetable motorcyclists by several orders of magnitude. Society has bigger problems, and law enforcement has more important things to worry about, than a motorcyclist's choice to wear a helmet. I am not advocating helmetless riding, as I wear some very expensive headgear a vast majority of the time I ride, but I respect the idea that the individual should have a choice in how they live their lives.

Posted: 14/04/2012 at 05:57

Not using a helmet inofitself is not dangerous, it just lends the possibility of exacerbating danger when/if something goes wrong. What is worrying though is the lack of consistent training. Without wanting to disparage those across the pond, some states let you jump on a bike with only a car license....that plus no helmet is not a recepie for good things

Posted: 14/04/2012 at 11:03

Here in the states, we have to keep the medical industry going.
(no our government doesn't pay our hospital bills!)
If your $5 head isn't worth a $100 helmet ,I can't help you!

Posted: 14/04/2012 at 14:45

Once again I am profoundly embarrassed, ashamed, and sickened by the stupidity, slelfishness, and ignorance of my fellow Americans. Aside from, prima facie, it just being dumb not to wear a helmet (ever get hit by a june bug in the eye?) it drives up the cost of insurance for every other responsible motorcyclist in the US as the insurance companies spread the cost of covering the imbeciles that get injured without a helmet to the rest of us. Disgusting.

Posted: 14/04/2012 at 18:58

I always wear a helmet because I have to. If I didn't have to I would choose to do so anyway because my head is worth far more than any helmet.

Having said that I don't believe in the nanny state that tells us we have to wear them, or use seatbelts, or not smoke, or drink, or eat certain things. I like freedom of choice and freedom of opinion.

Posted: 14/04/2012 at 21:33

You can smoke in your home, ride an MX bike all over your property without a lid, eat whatever you want.

But you can't jerk off in a playground or smoke in a restaurant. Using the roads is a privilege - not a right - and comes with certain responsibilities. 5mph bumpers, seat belts, airbags, limits to vehicle mods - you can't argue against safety improvements unless they come at an unreasonable dollar cost.

A helmet is far from unreasonable, particularly when you consider the nearly useless half-helmet beanies that the DOT allows.

Posted: 15/04/2012 at 03:34

less stupid americans - fine by me.
As for freedom - well ask that to people that have to scrape your dumb ass off your road then tell your next of kin (if your lucky) your dead or (if your families are not lucky)you are a vegetable and need assistance for the rest of your life.

Was'nt there a classic situation some time back where some stupid americans went for a group ride to protest helmet laws and some guy came a croppa and killed himself on the ride.....that is comedy gold LOL!!!!!

Posted: 15/04/2012 at 11:22

As a California motorcyclist I come at this from two angles. The political idealist in me thinks that the government has zero right to tell you how to behave to keep yourself safe (In this case as well as requiring you to wear a seatbelt). I think it's absolutely idiotic of you to not wear a helmet or a seatbelt, but regardless, I don't find the government has the right to tell you to do so.

The pragmatic side of me sees how the world is actually set up, with insurance premiums and hospital bills that become the burden of other people, and it makes me think that my idealistic political views don't quite apply to the shitstorm that most modern societal structures have become. So it comes down to theory vs practice for me. In essence, do I believe a person has the right to ride a motorcycle without a helmet? Yes. Would I do it? No. Does not requiring the wearing of a helmet work in our modern litigious, insurance ass raping society? No. And as I don't see the society changing anytime soon, it comes down to protecting the financial integrity of the community. It's just the world we live in, and it doesn't look like it's going to change.

Posted: 15/04/2012 at 11:27

Nanny bikers - please think - not everyone wants to live long boring lives like you. Why ride a bike if safety is so important to you ?

I wear a helmet but it isn't for safety in the event of a crash. It is to keep my head warm in winter, bug-free in summer, and dry all year round. It's hard to ride fast in heavy rain without a visor.

I respect the people who don't wear one and let them enjoy their choice. It's easy to do - try it.

Posted: 15/04/2012 at 11:56

Surely it should be a choice, but there should be an insurance premium to cover the health risk that you are more likely to become a vegetable. i.e. if it goes Pete Tong, nobody else has to fund your decision.

Posted: 15/04/2012 at 17:46

Yes, it was a ride put on by ABATE ( 'A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments' ) one of the big anti-helmet pirate clubs.

I stifled a chuckle - unnecessary death is something I don't take lightly, despite obvious comedic value.

Posted: 15/04/2012 at 23:17

I'm an Aussie and helmet laws here require everyone to wear one. I ride a supersports and i'd like to think I go pretty hard but that being said I can't comprehend some of these anti-helmet comments. In this case my opinion is that the goverments who do advocate for laws requiring helmet use are protecting idiots from themselves. I'd like to see as many of my fellow riders stick around as long as possible - even the dumb ones :)

Posted: 16/04/2012 at 06:36

it does seem that for far too long the H&S lot have been legislating in favor of the idiot. I'm sure Darwin would be spinning in his grave were he to find out that Natural Selection had been messed with to such an extent that mankind now faced the very real possibility of death by numpty.

Posted: 16/04/2012 at 16:33

I believe in the freedom of choice. But I would always choose to wear a motorcycle helmet. In May 2009 a French driver failed to stop at a roundabout and hit me at 45mph and drove off leaving me unconscious. I suffered a ruptured pituitary gland, that now doesn't work producing hormones and cortisol. So now I M on steroids for the rest of my life and suffer the occasional blackouts.
My point is, what state would I had been in if not wearing my £300 Shoei? I dread to think. Choice is great as long as you choose wisely.

Posted: 16/04/2012 at 19:03

was spelling "governor" wring a joke?

Posted: 17/04/2012 at 17:08


Posted: 17/04/2012 at 17:09

I must be missing something but I fail to see the point of arguing NOT to wear a lid . I would think that it would be a matter of self preservation , well to me it is . The whole point of having safety equipment is that you wear it in the hope that you never need it , the old dress for the fall not for the ride line .

If you feel that the government has no right to tell you to protect your own head well ,then so be it , the government should not need to have to tell you to wear a lid  .

Posted: 18/04/2012 at 11:35

That's a problem with socialism, not freedom.

In a free land, that rider would have to take care of himself. Maybe if he had to be responsible, he'd use reason and wear a helmet. when you are his insurance, his risk is reduced.

Posted: 18/04/2012 at 13:01

I live in Indiana, too, and I'd say that it's closer to 50-50, but perhaps I see smarter bikers. I don't believe it's Big Brother's right to dictate my clothing or safety equipment, but I voluntarily wear gear and helmet, and I have always used a seat belt.

Basically, I think that if you don't wear a helmet, you don't need a helmet.

But when you're 18 and taking care of yourself, it's your choice, not my right to force you.

Posted: 18/04/2012 at 13:04

That's a great market-based solution. I'm for it!

Posted: 18/04/2012 at 13:05

I've hit bugs that were so big and "going so fast" that I've gotten a bloody nose and had skin split open. While wearing a helmet.

(That was in the days before the Bell Star, which I bought immediately upon its release).

Posted: 18/04/2012 at 13:07

Wear a helmet. It's your choice. But don't tell another adult what to do, unless he's your kid and still living under your roof. (Then he's not really an adult, anyway.) And for Lord's sake, don't give politicians any more arbitrary power.

Posted: 18/04/2012 at 13:09

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