Michigan Motorcycle Helmet Law – A Complete Guide


It’s the wind in your hair, the sun on your skin, the deeper connection to your natural environment from the seat of your motorcycle. And there’s nothing else quite like it.

We get the reasons you ride

But as personal injury attorneys that represent countless riders seriously injured in motorcycle accidents, we hope you’ll take the time to fully understand Michigan’s motorcycle helmet law before deciding whether or not to wear a helmet. While the choice, in most cases, is ultimately up to you, we know that knowledge is power. So next time you hop on your bike, keep this information in mind.

Current State of the Michigan Motorcycle Law

As of 2018, nineteen states and the District of Columbia require motorcyclists to wear a helmet. However, the Michigan motorcycle helmet law is different and is known as a “weakened law.” In 2012, the law requiring helmet use statewide was repealed. Now, the choice to ride helmetless is up to the rider as long as the following conditions are met:

  • You must be at least 21 years old.
  • You have to carry a minimum of $20,000 in first-party medical benefits.
  • You have held a motorcycle endorsement for at least 2 years or passed an approved motorcycle safety program.
  • Same rules apply for motorcycle passengers, with the exception of completing a safety program.

Read full statute here.

Please note that, while helmet use is optional if you meet the above criteria, eye protection is not. In Michigan, anyone operating a motorcycle in excess of 35mph without a windshield must wear goggles, eyeglasses, or a face shield. Eye safety gear not only protects your vision while you ride, but it also reduces the chance of injury in the unfortunate event of a crash.

Bluetooth motorcycle helmets are also permitted in the state of Michigan, but be sure to read up on them before deciding whether or not to wear one.

Brief History of Helmet Laws in Michigan

Michigan hasn’t always had a weakened helmet law. In fact, to wear or not wear a helmet has gone back and forth through Michigan courts multiple times. Here’s a brief history:

1967: Michigan complies with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s requirements for federal funds by enacting its first Universal Helmet Law (UHL).
1968: First repeal of Michigan’s Universal Helmet Law.
1969: Reinstatement of the Michigan UHL.
April 12, 2012: Repeal and replacement of Universal Helmet Law resulting in current, weakened law.

A study comparing the 12-month period leading up to the UHL repeal to the 12-month period immediately following it found helmet use declined by 24-27% among riders involved in an accident, as well as a 14% increase in head injuries. So while the choice may ultimately be yours, knowing the risks facing helmetless riding is vital to your decision-making process.

Know the Facts

  • Head injury is the leading cause of death in motorcycle accidents.
  • Helmets are estimated to be 37% effective at preventing fatal injuries.
  • In the four-year period following the UHL repeal in Michigan, total motorcycle accidents have decreased by 10.4% while fatal crashes have increased by 10.7% compared to the four-year period leading up to the repeal.
  • A 2017 study found approximately 71.4% of motorcyclists wear a helmet, which is dramatically reduced from the 99.4% observed in a 2006 study.
  • High-visibility gear was used by only 3.6% of riders in one study from 2017.
  • Helmet use decreased the average cost of hospitalization for riders by $6,000 per patient, one 2002 study found due to the Injury Severity Score compared to helmetless riders.

Finding the Perfect Fit

So, you’ve seen the numbers and read the stats, and you’ve decided to wear a helmet. We applaud you! But not all helmets are created equal and getting the right fit is imperative. When you’re shopping for the safest one, here are some tips:

  • Understand protection features
    • Outer shell: usually made of fiber-reinforced composites, which allow the material to contract upon impact, lessening the blow to the rider.
    • Impact-absorbing layer: typically made of foam or similar material, this layer absorbs more of the shock and deflects it away from the rider’s head.
    • Comfort padding: the innermost layer which ensures a snug fit and comfort.
    • Chinstrap: keeps the helmet in place while riding and in the event of a crash.
  • Make sure your helmet meets the minimum safety standards as evidenced by a DOT or Snell sticker.
  • Choose your eyewear. Since vision protection is mandatory in Michigan, you’ll want to choose how to protect yourself prior to helmet purchase. If you don’t want to wear goggles or eyeglasses, look for a helmet with a face-mask.
  • Get properly fitted at a reputable shop. In general, a helmet should feel slightly snug, connecting with most of your head and sides of your face without applying too much pressure.
  • Replace when needed. The foam eventually wears down. If your helmet feels even slightly loose, it’s time for a new one.
  • If you ever have questions about your helmet, take it to the professionals at a shop for a second opinion.

Even wearing a helmet doesn’t guarantee you’ll be uninjured in the event of an accident. Sinas Dramis is dedicated to protecting the rights of injured motorcyclists. With a track record of success, we’ll help you get the compensation you deserve. Contact us for a free consultation today.