Opponents declared that amending Michigan’s helmet law to allow rider choice in wearing a helmet or not would mean an increase in motorcyclists fatalities. Recent data from the Michigan State Police and Secretary of State proves them wrong.

“We at American Bikers Aiming Toward Education, or ABATE Michigan are concerned with motorcycle safety so we have been monitoring the effect of this helmet law modification to see what impact it has made, “ said Vince Consiglio, President, for ABATE Michigan. “We used the Michigan State Police/Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning data which compares motorcycle data between January 1 and August 31 for the last two years and the numbers speak for themselves.”

From 2011 (pre-amendment) to 2012 (post-amendment) fatalities dropped from 89 to 85—a 4.5 % reduction. Adjusting the data to show fatalities as a percentage of motorcyclists involved shows a decrease from 3.24% to 3.05%, which is a 5.8% reduction.

During the same time period the number of registrations increased from 261,658 to 266,589. If the fatality rate is adjusted to the total of motorcycle registrations it shows that the fatality rate has decreased from 0.034% to 0.0318% since the helmet-law amendment—a 7% reduction.

On April 12, 2012 the requirement for motorcycle helmets was amended to allow adult choice for motorcyclists 21 and older, providing they completed an accredited motorcycle-safety course or had a minimum of 2 years riding experience.

“This data proves conclusively that the helmet-law amendment had no adverse effect on motorcycle safety,” Consiglio said. “What does matter is car driver/motorcyclists awareness and motorcycle education, which we have advocated for and provided to residents of Michigan for more than two decades.”

Because 40 percent of Michigan motorcycle fatalities are unlicensed—or unendorsed— motorcyclists, ABATE’s goal in teaching motorcycle rider education classes and going into the drivers’ education classrooms is to ensure that everyone arrives home safely.

“A motorcyclists has a responsibility to know how to handle his or her bike,” Consiglio added. “However, a motorcyclist is much more vulnerable than a passenger vehicle occupant in the event of a crash.”

Consiglio offered tips for drivers to help keep motorcyclists safe on our roadways.

  • Remember, a motorcycle is a vehicle with all of the rights and privileges of any other motor vehicle.
  • Always allow a motorcyclist the full lane width—never try to share a lane.
  • Perform a visual check for motorcycles by checking mirrors and blind spots before entering or exiting a lane of traffic, and at intersections.
  • Always signal your intentions before changing lanes or merging with traffic.
  • Don’t be fooled by a flashing turn signal on a motorcycle – motorcycle signals are often not self-canceling and riders sometimes forget to turn them off. Wait to be sure the motorcycle is going to turn before you proceed.
  • Allow more following distance - three or four seconds - when behind a motorcycle so the motorcyclist has enough time to maneuver or stop in an emergency.
  • Never tailgate. In dry conditions, motorcycles can stop more quickly than cars.
  • Never drive while distracted.

Consiglio said motorcyclists can increase their safety by:

  • Avoiding riding in poor weather conditions;
  • Using turn signals for every turn or lane change, even if the rider thinks no one will see it;
  • Combining hand signals and turn signals to draw more attention to themselves;
  • Positioning themselves in the lane where they will be most visible to other drivers; and
  • Never driving while impaired.
  • Taking and passing an approved motorcycle rider education class and getting endorsed.

A motorcycle endorsement on a driver's license is required by law to ride on public roads and can be obtained by attending and passing a motorcycle rider education class, which are available statewide for a fee. A list of Secretary of State approved Michigan Motorcycle Safety Program instructors, along with their locations and contact information can be found the Secretary of State’s website. ABATE Michigan supports public and private rider education. A current list of ABATE Michigan motorcycle rider education classes locations and times can be found on ABATE Michigan’s website.

Additionally, ABATE Michigan has partnered with public schools and private driving instructors to teach more than 75,000 new car drivers about motorcycle awareness, using resources donated by ABATE members.

ABATE is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the overall rights and promoting the safe operating practices of all Michigan motorcyclists.