Michigan Poised to Ratify Helmet Freedom Of Choice Bill

Lansing: Michigan Legislators in the State House voted overwhelmingly to allow motorcyclist 21 and over to decide for themselves if they want to wear a helmet or not.  The only requirements are that they have 2 years experience or have completed an approved motorcycle safety course and carry $20,000 in medical insurance.

State Senators receive the bill to work through the differences from a version they previously approved this past June.  After that, the legislation lands on Michigan’s Governor  Rick Snyder’s desk.  Snyder says he’ll sign the bill, but only if certain insurance reforms are in place.

“The governor has been clear and consistent that for him to look at any helmet law repeal it has to take place in context of broader auto insurance reform,” Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said.

For Michigan’s Insurance lobby, the issue is simply about money.  Typically the Insurance industry is a staunch opponent of freedom of choice, and frames its arguments against legislation like this by scaring the public with the specter of the financial bogey man for the state’s taxpayers.  ”The consequences of a person’s decision not to wear a helmet is borne by all of society through higher insurance premiums, lost productivity and increased health care costs,” said Lori Conarton, spokeswoman for the Insurance Institute of Michigan.”

Former Gov. Jennifer Granholm nixed the legislation twice with a stroke of her pen, siding with the powerful Insurance and Health Care lobby.  Governor Snyder, however, hasn’t shot down the idea of signing the bill if it reached his desk.

Supporters of the bill include ABATE, State Tourism officials and lawmakers who helped push the legislation through say that motorcyclist avoid Michigan because of the helmet law.  Peter Pettalia, R-Presque Isle, (a former emergency medical tech) spoke in favor of the bill and agreed that head injuries are traumatic, but the bill give people the choice and many will wear a helmet, but the requirement is a turn off to many motorcycle tourists.  Pettalia told the Detroit News, “”We’re surrounded by helmetless states. So if somebody wants to travel to the Great Lakes, they will oftentimes travel into the Wisconsin area where the Dells are and avoid coming into Michigan.”

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