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Is Gov. Snyder finally ready to admit his deadly mistake repealing Michigan’s motorcycle helmet law?

Since 2012 repeal, motorcycle fatalities have increased 26% and fatalities for motorcyclists not wearing helmets have increased 1,000% – even with registrations down nearly 4%

motorcycle fatalities no helmet, image

First, the undisputed facts: Motorcycle accident deaths are up 26% since the 2012 repeal of Michigan’s motorcycle helmet law. Fatalities for motorcycle operators not wearing a helmet are up approximately 1,000%.

And Michigan motorcycle registrations are down nearly 4%.

That tells us what we’ve known all along:

Repealing Michigan’s life-saving motorcycle helmet law – which for more than 40 years had required all Great Lakes state riders to wear motorcycle helmets – was wrong.

The cost for that deadly mistake is continuing to be paid with motorcyclists’ lives.

The Governors Highway Safety Association says as much in their “Motorcyclist Traffic Fatalities by State: 2015 Preliminary Data” study, which was released in May 2016:

Michigan “state highway officials noted the repeal of Michigan’s all-rider helmet law in 2012 has been a factor in a portion of the increase in fatalities to motorcyclists, due to fewer riders wearing helmets, which decreases the chances of surviving a crash.”

Here’s what we know about what’s happened since the 2012 repeal:

  • The Insurance Institute of Michigan reports: “Motorcycle deaths in Michigan have risen 26 percent since the year before the state’s mandatory helmet law was repealed in 2012. In 2011, there were 109 deaths in motorcycle crashes in this state. That compares to 138 in 2015.”
  • Keith Laing of The Detroit News reported that “[i]n 2011, the year before the repeal, five of the 109 motorcyclists who were killed in crashes were not wearing a helmet, according to the state police. Last year, 56 of the 138 riders were killed were not wearing helmets.”
  • A study in the American Journal of Surgery reported that, since the 2012 repeal: “Deaths at the scene of the crash more than quadrupled, with the proportion of bikers not wearing helmets rising from 14% before the helmet repeal to 68% after … Deaths in the hospital tripled, with 10% of motorcyclists dying, compared to 3% of those who had been wearing helmets … Head injuries have increased overall, and more of them are severe, with more non-helmeted patients staying longer in the Intensive Care Unit needing machine assistance with breathing … Among the accident victims brought to the hospital after the repeal, the proportion of riders who had not been wearing a helmet rose from 7% to 28%.”

The Michigan Traffic Crash Reports show that Michigan motorcycle registrations decreased by 10,388 or nearly 4% between 2011 and 2014.

From my own perspective as a motorcycle accident attorney, the helmet law has been an unmitigated disaster, just as I predicted when I was interviewed on the subject the day the law was repealed in 2012.

While I’ve been disappointed that the other Michigan lawyers who advertise and promote themselves as “motorcycle accident lawyers” have chosen to keep silent on this issue – undoubtedly out of fear of possibly offending people who’ve been injured in motorcycle wrecks and now need a lawyer (but who might have thought the helmet repeal was a good thing), I’ve tried to make the case as strongly as I can on the pages of this blog.

The warnings were everywhere. As I previously wrote in my April 13, 2012, blog post, “Gov. Snyder signs repeal of Michigan’s motorcycle helmet law”:

“In analyzing Senate Bill 291, the bill proposing the repeal of Michigan’s motorcycle helmet law, the House Fiscal Agency reported: ‘Insurance industry representatives in previous sessions have testified that an unhelmeted rider is 40 percent more likely to suffer a fatal head injury compared to a rider with a helmet and that helmets are 67 percent effective in preventing brain injuries (citing National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics). They say that motorcyclists impose disproportionate costs on the state’s No-Fault insurance system, particularly the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association. Hospital officials have said that an unhelmeted rider is 37 percent more likely to need ambulance services, be admitted to a hospital as an inpatient, have higher hospital costs, need neurosurgery, intensive care, and rehabilitation, be permanently impaired, and need long-term care.’”

Motorcycle accident deaths in Michigan have jumped  26% since 2012 helmet law repeal

Below is a chart showing the difference between the annual motorcycle crash fatality rates in Michigan both before repeal of Michigan’s motorcycle-helmet law and after the repeal took effect on April 13, 2012 (Public Act 98 of 2012).

motorcycle crash fatalities, image

(Sources: Michigan Traffic Crash Facts, “Michigan Motorcycle Crashes,” 2009-2014; Insurance Institute of Michigan, “Michigan Motorcycle Deaths Climb Since Helmet Repeal,” June 7, 2016, press release; Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), “Motorcycle Traffic Fatalities By State, 2015 Preliminary Data (May 19, 2016))

Motorcycle registrations: Decreased nearly 4% since 2012 repeal

The jump in crash fatalities is even more stark when we consider that, while Michigan motorcycle accident deaths increased approximately 26% since 2011 (the year before the motorcycle-helmet-law repeal took effect), Michigan motorcycle registrations have decreased by 10,388 or nearly 4%.

(Source: Michigan Traffic Crash Facts, “Michigan Motorcycle Crashes,” 2011-2014)

Fatalities for motorcyclists not wearing helmets: Increased more than 1000% since 2012 repeal

Below is a chart showing the difference between the annual motorcycle crash fatality rates for motorcyclists not wearing helmets both before repeal of Michigan’s motorcycle-helmet law and after the repeal took effect on April 13, 2012 (Public Act 98 of 2012).

motorcycle crash fatalities no helmet, image

(Sources: Michigan Traffic Crash Facts, “Motorcycle Helmet Usage and Injury Severity,” 2009-2014; *The Detroit News, “Mich. Motorcyclist deaths up after helmet law’s repeal,” Keith Laing, June 8, 2016)

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