A Traverse City man is dead after crashing his motorcycle Saturday night in eastern Grand Traverse County. 34-year-old James Ritter was not wearing a helmet when he lost control of his bike and veered into nearby trees.
Officials say they couldn’t immediately say whether a helmet might have saved Ritter’s life, but this is one of the first motorcycle deaths in the state now that it’s legal to ride without.
“We would just hope that any motorcyclists who are going to opt not to where their helmet, that they drive with even more caution than they did in the past,” says Captain Randy Fewless with the Grand Traverse County Sheriff’s Department. “And to realize that it’s not only the way that they operate their motorcycle on the roadway but to realize that there are other people on the roadways who may not be operating their vehicles as safely.”
Fewless says other states that have opened the door to riding without a helmet have seen a jump in motorcycle deaths.
“So we are expecting that we will most likely see the same thing, unfortunately,” he says.
Michigan’s law is new this spring. Riders without head protection must be 21 years old and carry additional insurance coverage.
Supporters of the change have said safety training is more important than head protection.