Biker Group Again Seeks to Make Helmets Optional in Mich.

May 24, 2007

A group again is seeking the option to ride motorcycles without helmets in Michigan.

The new plan pitched this week by American Bikers Aiming Toward Education (ABATE) would allow riders to pay a $100 annual state permit fee to allow them to opt out of wearing a helmet. Bikers also could pay $200 for three years.

Motorcyclists also would have to be at least 21 years old, have two years experience and complete safety training. They also would have to carry at least $20,000 in personal injury health insurance to ride without a helmet. Riding helmetless without a permit would result in a $500 fine.

Michigan law now requires all motorcycle riders to wear helmets. But ABATE has been trying to change that law for several years.

The efforts to repeal Michigan’s mandatory helmet law came relatively close to success last year, as the state Legislature approved a bill that would have made wearing headgear optional.

But Gov. Jennifer Granholm vetoed the measure, saying that motorcycle helmets save lives and reduce injuries.

The $100 provision isn’t likely to change Granholm’s mind. Spokeswoman Liz Boyd said the fees wouldn’t cover the cost of catastrophic health care for motorcyclists who are injured.

“The governor was very clear with her veto message on this issue,” Boyd said. “The bottom line is helmets save lives.”

Granholm will be lobbied to change her position by ABATE, which says the state’s current law is based on myth rather than science.

The legislation to repeal Michigan’s helmet law has both Democratic and Republican support so it could pass the Legislature again. The bill is being introduced by Rep. Barbara Farrah, D-Southgate.

ABATE says repealing Michigan’s mandatory helmet law would boost tourism. The group says many bikers travel to other states, and out-of-state riders won’t visit here, because of the state’s current law.

“This proposal can bring money into the state and help get our economy back in gear,” ABATE legislative director Jim Rhoades said in a statement.

Supporters say the proposed changes to Michigan law could raise up to $25 million a year for the state.

Topics Auto Michigan

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