Each state has its own unique laws about bicycle helmet requirements. Michigan does not mandate safety gear for bicyclists in most scenarios. However, there is an exception that you need to know if you plan to ride a bike on public roads in Michigan.

Let’s look at which cyclists are required by law to wear a helmet in Michigan.

Are You Required to Wear a Bicycle Helmet in Michigan?

No, bicyclists aren’t required to wear a bicycle helmet in Michigan.

Roughly half of U.S. states do require bicycle helmets for children, but Michigan is not currently one of them, despite growing advocacy for a helmet law.

Are There Exceptions?

Michigan may not require helmets for bicycle riders, but the state does require helmets for motorcycle riders under age 21. This also extends to requiring helmets for anyone under age 19 on a moped, and under age 18 on a Class 3 e-bike. A Class 3 e-bike is a bicycle with operational pedals as well as a speedometer and an electric motor that can assist with power up to 28 MPH.

Helmets must be “approved by the department of state police,” according to Michigan law, which means the helmet must be Department of Transportation compliant, not that you need a police officer to personally inspect your helmet. DOT-compliant helmets are clearly marked, so you can simply look at your helmet to ensure it is labeled as such.

Even Though It’s Not Law, Wearing a Helmet Greatly Improves Safety

Wearing a helmet significantly reduces a bicyclist’s chances of suffering a brain injury if they’re involved in a bicycle accident.

According to the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning and the Michigan State Police, 933 bicyclists were injured and 38 were killed, including 3 children, in Michigan bicycle crashes in 2020. Nationwide, these numbers rise to over 350,000 injuries and more than 1,000 deaths annually.

In fact, head injuries are the cause of one-third of emergency room visits by bicyclists, as well as two-thirds of all bicyclist hospital admissions, and three-fourths of all bicyclist deaths.

Many of these injuries may have been avoided through helmet use. According to the National Library of Medicine, bicycle helmets can reduce the risk of serious head and brain injuries by up to 88% and reduce the risk of facial injuries by up to 65%.

Evidence supports this, as bicycle crash-related injuries and death tend to go down when states adopt helmet laws.

What to Consider When Buying a Bike Helmet

If you’re considering purchasing a bicycle helmet, keep these safety tips in mind:

  • Buy a helmet that is DOT and CPSC-compliant (check for a sticker on the back) and from a reputable seller.
  • Make sure the helmet is the right fit. It should be snug, but not uncomfortable.
  • Biking helmets are available for several different types of biking, from simple commuting to mountain biking, so pick the right one for your situation.
  • Remember that once a helmet is involved in a crash, it should be discarded, as it is no longer in good enough condition to protect you in any future crashes, even if it doesn’t look cracked or scuffed.
  • After five years of use, it’s time to buy a new helmet, even if you haven’t been in any major crashes. This is because the material in bike helmets that provides padding can degrade over time.

How Do I Know If My Child’s Bike Helmet Fits Right?

  • Eyes – Your child’s helmet should not slide down over their eyes when pushed or pulled. Your child should also be able to see the brim of the helmet when looking up.
  • Forehead – When properly settled on their head, the rim of the helmet should sit one to two finger-widths above their eyebrows. If the helmet is pushed too far back on their head, it won’t protect their forehead in a fall.
  • Ears – The straps of the helmet should form a “V” shape under the ears when buckled.
  • Mouth – Tell your child to open their mouth as wide as they can. They should be able to feel the helmet hug their head. If they can’t, the helmet straps need to be tightened, or the helmet may be too large.

How Do I Get My Child to Wear a Bike Helmet?

Children often model their behavior after their parents. Even if the law does not require you to wear a helmet, or if you never wore a helmet yourself growing up, always wear a helmet when riding with your child. If they see you not wearing one, they are more likely to refuse to wear one as well.

Allowing your child to come with you to the store and pick out their own bicycle helmet also increases the likelihood they will wear it by choice.

Other Michigan Bicycle Laws You Should Know

  • Bicyclists are required to follow all the rules of the road that motorists are. This includes obeying all traffic signals, road signs, and road markings. Cyclists must also signal with their hands when turning or stopping.
  • Motorists are required to yield to bicyclists the same as they would other motorists at intersections.
  • Bicyclists may ride on the sidewalk, but when they do so, they must yield to pedestrians.
  • State law requires all motorists to give bicyclists at least three feet of space when passing. Some municipalities, including Dearborn and Ann Arbor, require a minimum of five feet.
  • No more than two bicyclists may ride side-by-side on Michigan roads.
  • Bicyclists must mount a white light on the front of their bike and a red reflector on the rear of their bike when riding at night.

If You Suffer Injuries in a Bicycle Accident, Know Your Rights

If you’re involved in an accident through no fault of your own while riding your bike, you have the right to compensation for the costs of the injuries you’ve suffered.

Injuries suffered in bicycle accidents can be expensive, painful, and disabling. When someone else is at fault for your injuries, you can hold them accountable for the many costs you’re facing. Typically, the at-fault party’s insurance company will compensate you for your damages. However, it’s common for insurance companies to deny claims or offer lowball settlements to bicycle accident victims.

Don’t accept an offer from an insurance company without considering all the expenses you’ll encounter because of your injuries. It’s possible that your future medical bills and lost income will exceed the offer an insurance company makes. Talk to an experienced attorney before accepting the insurance company’s first offer.

If You’ve Been Involved in a Bicycle Accident, Contact Fieger Law

At Fieger Law, our Michigan bicycle accident attorneys have years of experience representing injured bicyclists. We’ve won record-setting verdicts and settlements for personal injury clients, and we’re here to fight for the full compensation you’re entitled to.

If you’d like to speak to our team about your legal options, we offer free, no-obligation case reviews. Contact Fieger Law today to schedule a free consultation.

Originally published March 29, 2021.