Michigan removes helmet requirement for motorcyclists; Nebraska now only Midwestern state with universal helmet law

Stateline Midwest ~ May 2012

Michigan has repealed a state law requiring all motorcyclists to wear helmets, leaving Nebraska as the lone state in the Midwest with such a law on the books.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, most state laws in this region only require that helmets be worn by riders who are 17 years old and younger. (Illinois and Iowa are the only two states in the Midwest — two of only three nationally — with no helmet requirements for any ages.)

Michigan’s new law allows people 21 and older to ride without a helmet, but these individuals must also meet specific requirements. These riders have to pass a safety course, the Detroit Free Press reports, as well as carry $20,000 in medical insurance. Nationwide, 19 U.S. states have laws requiring all motorcyclists to wear helmets. Michigan had been among this list of states until the governor’s signature of SB 291 in April. Efforts to repeal the helmet law date back decades; former Gov. Jennifer Granholm twice vetoed measures passed by the Legislature.

In 2010, there were a total of 818 motorcyclist fatalities in the 11-state Midwest, ranging from a low of 14 in Nebraska to a high of 170 in Ohio. Sixty-three percent of those fatalities involved unhelmeted riders.