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Motorcycle accident deaths and injuries are climbing

November 17, 2011 by Steven M. Gursten

President of SMARTER and motorcycle lawyer give another reason to wear motorcycle helmets

Well, looks like the Michigan Legislature is going to pass the motorcycle helmet repeal, enabling motorcyclists 21 and over to ride without a helmet in Michigan.

As a motorcycle lawyer whose law firm has probably handled more motorcycle accident injury lawsuits than any other attorney in Michigan, I can say from experience that there are many things wrong with this proposed helmet repeal. As I told Dr. Frank McGeorge, a television news reporter from Channel 4 who interviewed me last week about the serious risks of the motorcycle repeal, with the increased risks of traumatic brain injury and other catastrophic injuries for motorcycle riders, this is just a boondoggle for Michigan insurance companies. These insurance companies are shifting the risk and the financial responsibility onto Michigan taxpayers.

With that off my chest, here’s my fourth installment of why Michigan should keep its motorcycle helmet law.

For those of you who are new to this blog series, a reader named Clay responded to my blog on 7 reasons every state should pass a motorcycle helmet law with what he called his “rebuttal to your 7 reasons why I should be forced to wear a helmet.”

Dan Petterson, president of SMARTER, a safety group for Michigan motorcyclists, was generous enough to respond to Clay’s comment.

For the next several weeks, I’ll be blogging about individual points made from my own blog (in green type), with Clay’s reader comments (in blue type) and Petterson’s rebuttals (purple type).

Reason 4 for a helmet law: Fatalities and injuries from motorcycle accidents are climbing. Motorcycle fatalities are at their highest level in 20 years, and now account for more than 10 percent of all annual fatalities, even though motorcycles make up less than 2 percent of all registered vehicles and only 0.4 percent of all vehicle miles traveled. In Michigan, motorcycle accident deaths have increased by 21 percent.

Biker rebuttal: Using the articles that were linked for reference, I’d say that since the rest of the country experienced drops in accidental deaths, this seems more of a localized phenomenon that other states have dealt with effectively using means other than mandatory helmet laws.

More information from SMARTER:
We don’t know what articles Clay checked here, however the national trends can easily be located – even Wikipedia lists the trends in motorcycle fatalities.

Another full report can be found in this study: Motorcyclist fatalities by state. This is also a 2010 preliminary report from the Governors Highway Safety Association.

United States motorcycle fatalities increased every year for 11 years since reaching a historic low of 2,116 fatalities in 1997, until a decline in 2009. In nine years, motorcycle deaths more than doubled. In 2009, motorcycle fatalities in the U.S. declined for the first time in 11 years. The yearly total dropped from 5,312 to 4,462. A decline in recreational motorcycling due to the late-2000s recession might account for the decrease in accidents/fatalities which continued in about half of the states during the early part of 2010. The alarming news is that Michigan had a near 21 percent spike in motorcycle crash deaths. According to the study, which tracked motorcycle accident deaths throughout a nine-month period in 2009 and 2010, in Michigan, 92 motorcyclists were killed in 2009 and 111 were killed in 2010.

That’s a horrific increase, considering about half of the other states had drops in motorcycle deaths.

An excellent source is the Michigan Traffic Crash Facts.

We’ve been getting a lot of feedback on these motorcycle helmet blogs. I really appreciate the reader interaction and how passionate people are on this subject. But please know, I’m not writing about this subject to upset the readers and my cherished clients who have been in serious motorcycle accidents.

I write about the importance of motorcycle helmets because I care about the safety of our Michigan bikers. It makes no sense to have more motorcycle-accident related injuries and fatalities occur – because a law allows people to ride without life-saving motorcycle helmet protection.

Steven M. Gursten is partner of Michigan Auto Law and is recognized as one of the nation’s top motorcycle lawyers. He received the highest motorcycle settlement in the state last year, according to Michigan Lawyers Weekly. Steve has spoken at trial seminars on motorcycle lawsuits and is available for comment.

Other blogs from this series:

Motorcycle helmet laws save lives

Motorcycle helmet laws increase helmet use

Why wearing a motorcycle helmet is fiscally responsible

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 Farmington Hills, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Sterling Heights to better serve you. Call (248) 353-7575 for a free consultation with one of our Michigan motorcycle lawyers.

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One Reply to “Motorcycle accident deaths and injuries are climbing”

  1. Does anybody know why the legislature is even interested in this. There are lot’s of public health laws that could be repealed. What is different about this particular one? Is there talk of repealing the seatbelt law?

    Motorcycle safety is a tough subjec because, if you don’t ride, there are things you simply cannot know about issues that are important. If you do ride you’re an addict and may be you don’t want everybody else to understand. The motorcycle foxes are left guarding the safety chicken coop.

    I consider the current procedures for getting a motorcycle endorsement to be nothing more than legal corruption. The failure of the public safety community to address it competently is unnerving.

    I ride a bike. I wear a helmet. I’m not complaining.

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