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'It's just common sense'


Local biker reflects on new Michigan helmet law and insurance



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Kenneth Patrick on his Harley Davidson, has been riding motorcycles for more than 40 years. Photo by David Fleet. (click for larger version)
April 25, 2012 - At 5-years-old, Kenneth Patrick asked his father for a bicycle.

"Dad showed up with a Honda 50 cc motorcycle," said Patrick. "Dad said, 'Why pedal when you can give it the gas and just sit there?'"

At 54-years-old, Patrick has been riding motorcycles—on and off road—for more than four decades. And like thousands of other riders in Michigan has abided by the helmet law that has been in effect for 35 years. But that law was repealed earlier this month when Michigan, joining 30 other states, made it legal for motorcyclists to ride without helmets.The law, signed by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R), requires motorcyclists 21 and under to wear a helmet, and all helmetless riders must carry $20,000 in medical insurance. Mortorcyclists must have been riding at least two years.

"It's just common sense," said Patrick who, along with Anna, his wife of 32 years, often takes off on cross country trips. "Anna does not like me to leave the driveway without her on the back."

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"If I'm riding up north to Mackinaw, the lid is coming off—if I'm going to Chicago, the lid's going on. Driving down the highway at 70 mph, I'll take it off as long as there's not much traffic. I like the idea of choice," he said. "It's like riding in a convertible without the windshield, the wind blowing through your hair. But I don't drink and ride a bike—never. It's not my ability to drive a bike I'm worried about—it's other drivers that worry me. Drive defensively, expect everything from everyone."

Walt Renn, owner of Walt Renn Insurance Agency, 1938 S. Ortonville Road, said motorcyclists should expect to pay more for the additional medical coverage.

"Depending on driving record, the additional medical coverage will cost $175 to $250 more per year," said Renn. "After the new helmet law went into effect we had a lot of people calling in to check on the price. It seemed everyone wanted to know about the new law. Some riders just had the medical coverage added to their policy. Others said it's just not worth it. Keep in mind, too, that many health insurance companies exclude coverage for injuries as a result of motorized vehicles."

Renn, who has worked in the insurance industry for more than 30 years, said the new law will increase his business, but only to the extent people want to ride without a helmet.

"Depending on driving record, insuring a motorcycle is less costly than insuring a car," said Renn. "The key for motorcycle owners is to keep the policy going all year. The six month polices are more costly. It's less expensive to just renew rather than write a new policy."

Patrick keeps full coverage insurance on his Harley Davidson.

"I have a lot invested in my bike and understand the replacement value is high. It's just not worth it to be uninsured or underinsured."

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