Michigan Legislation To Allow Helmet-Free Riding — For a Price

Michigan motorcyclists have been fighting for years to repeal their longstanding helmet law. The Detroit Free Press reports that this year, proposed legislation offers a trade — if a rider meets some requirements they can purchase a license sticker that certifies they can ride helmet free. The price? $100 for a one-year sticker, or $200 for three years.

I think this legislation (introduced as House Bill 4749) is remarkably misguided. I’m generally opposed to helmet laws on principle (I’m not a fan of nanny laws) but I don’t get involved in efforts to overturn them. I’d rather see that energy put toward promoting rider education and awareness campaigns for automobile drivers.

But this legislation seems to be a terrible solution. By setting a price tag on this particular risky behavior, it opens the door to broader attacks on motorcycling.* Once we establish a fee-for-risk model, why shouldn’t it be applied to other risky behavior? I might think it’s crazy to get on a bike without a helmet, but I’ve met a sizable number of people who think it’s madness that I get on a bike at all. I wonder how much should I have to pay?

Risk acceptance is a big part of riding a motorcycle. It’s no different than any other sport — mountain climbers, skydivers, bicyclists, whatever. Everyone determines what level of risk they’re willing to accept in pursuit of their passion — from a fatal mountaintop fall to getting cracked on the noggin by an errant golf ball. It’s a personal choice that each of us has to make. To start paying for the privilege? Madness. But no crazier than thinking that paying to ride without a helmet is some kind of anti-helmet law victory.

* I recognize that the same logic could be applied to helmet laws. But helmet laws have been around for decades and haven’t led to a general ban on motorcycling.

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