I probably should have expected this, knowing how passionate so many motorcycle riders are about the helmet law in Michigan. After all, I even had old clients – people who had suffered very serious injuries from motorcycle accidents and who I’ve developed close relationships with – tell me they still supported HB 4747; even after their crashes, personal injuries and lawsuits. So the e-mails and comments from so many in favor of repealing Michigan’s helmet laws should have come as no surprise to me as a motorcycle accident lawyer.
I welcome your comments (some a bit more colorful than others). But these comments are, in my opinion, off the mark. I still encourage the Michigan Legislature to vote to keep Michigan’s required use of helmets. The House of Representatives passed HB 4747 on Thursday, which repeals the motorcycle helmet law. Check out the roll call, so you can see how various House members voted. The Michigan Senate is expected to take action on the bill later this spring.
This is why I believe the Michigan Senate should kill HB 4747 and keep Michigan motorcyclists in helmets:
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that motorcycle helmets saved 1,784 lives in 2007, and that 800 more lives could have been saved if all motorcyclists had worn helmets. In other words, there would be 800 more people alive today if they had worn helmets.
As more people ride motorcycles, the number of people who are killed every year in preventable crashes will only grow. For example, in 2008, 127 motorcyclists were killed in Michigan and another 3,462 suffered serious injury in motorcycle crashes. The number of motorcycle crashes rose from 3,723 in 2007 to 3,969 in 2008.
Look people, it’s OK to have strong feelings on this issue. I understand many bikers don’t like me telling my clients to contact their representatives and how they should vote. You can send me all the e-mails you want and you don’t need to hire me as your lawyer if you get hurt riding your bike one day.
But the truth is, many of you will get hurt riding your motorcycles – even if you are the best rider in the world. That is a statistical fact. And when you do get in that accident riding your motorcycle, the odds are you will be seriously injured. It may be your fault. It may not be your fault. It could be the car who doesn’t see you, or the gaping hole in the street, or a dozen other reasons why you get hurt. They may all be beyond your control, causing you to get injured in an accident one day.
Did you know that Michigan motorcycle riders pay only 1.9 percent into the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association Fund, but the same injured motorcycle riders have claims that make more than 7 percent of the fund on average? That’s staggering – and it says something about what happens when you get hurt riding a motorcycle.
If helmets are proven to save saves and reduce the likelihood of getting seriously hurt, then you should wear one. Period.
Finally, for those who keep saying “don’t tell me what the hell to do” or “how I ride my bike is my business,” I’d say: “Fine, but then don’t tell me or the rest of society to pay for your dumb medical bills – especially when you spend three months in a hospital and have hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills and you are now looking for others to pick up the staggering tab. I am so glad you were able to “express yourself” as you spend the rest of your life in a wheelchair or drinking out of a straw.”
Yes, I do have strong feelings on this topic. These feelings have come from years of working with traumatic brain injury survivors, and people who have spent years trying to recover from catastrophic injuries on motorcycles. Like I said, no one says you shouldn’t ride a bike, and I want to remind my readers that I am very much pro-biker rights on most issues, and count many previous clients as friends.
But helmets save lives. Helmets reduce the likelihood of serious, life-altering traumatic brain injury. And that means you should wear one.
I don’t need the extra business.
– Steven M. Gursten heads Michigan Auto Law. He is recognized as one of the nation’s top experts in serious motorcycle accident injury cases and insurance no-fault litigation. He is available for comment on motorcycle accident law in Michigan, motorcycle crashes and catastrophic personal injury cases.
– Photo courtesy of Creative Commons, by FaceMePLS
Michigan Auto Law is the largest law firm exclusively handling car accident, truck accident and motorcycle accident cases throughout the entire state. We have offices in Southfield, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Sterling Heights.