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Why the public overwhelmingly supports motorcycle helmet laws

November 23, 2011 by Steven M. Gursten

President of SMARTER safety group and Michigan motorcycle attorneys give another reason to wear motorcycle helmets

I’ve been blogging in depth about the looming motorcycle helmet repeal, which will allow motorcyclists 21 and over to ride without a helmet in Michigan.

My experience as a Michigan motorcycle accident lawyer gives me a different perspective on this issue — aside from the black and white argument that some people make regarding freedom, liberty and the right to ride with “the wind in my hair.”

That unique perspective as an injury lawyer guarantees three things will happen if the motorcycle helmet law is repealed:

1. More people will die in motorcycle accidents.

2. More people will be seriously injured in motorcycle accidents.

3. The cost of lifetime catastrophic medical care for people who suffer serious traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury from motorcycle accidents will be shifted to Medicaid and the taxpayers.

This proposed law is not about motorcyclists’ rights. It is simply a boondoggle for Michigan insurance companies, which are shifting the financial responsibility for an injured biker’s medical bills from themselves onto our taxpayers.

There are many, many other reasons to keep Michigan’s motorcycle requirement. With that, here’s the fifth installment of my series. For those of you who are new to this series, a reader responded to my first blog on 7 reasons every state should pass a motorcycle helmet law with his “rebuttal to your 7 reasons why I should be forced to wear a helmet.” Dan Petterson, president of SMARTER, a safety group for motorcycle riders in Michigan, was generous enough to respond point by point to Clay’s comment.

For the next few weeks, I’ll continue to blog about each point made from my own blog (in green type), with Clay’s reader comments (in blue type) and Petterson’s rebuttals (purple type).

Reason 5 for a helmet law: The pubic overwhelmingly supports helmet laws: According to a motor vehicle occupant survey conducted by NHTSA, 81 percent reported that they favored mandatory helmet use laws for motorcyclists. A 2004 Lou Harris poll commissioned by Advocates yielded the same results.

Biker rebuttal: This is the most insidious reason of all for passing a mandatory law or ANY type. First, I don’t care what the public thinks about me wearing a helmet. It’s their prerogative to think I’m an idiot. Second, how many steps do you have to go before passing a law, “because the public supports it,” is used to justify anything you want it to? Bottom line is that this is completely irrelevant to the issue.

More information from SMARTER: Clay’s point is well taken. Our laws should not be based simply on whom or how many want something. According a new report from the Center for Disease Control, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, in 2008 Michigan’s all rider helmet law saved 25 lives and $43 million per 100,000 registered motorcycles. In 2008, Michigan had more than 257,000 registered motorcycles, which means our helmet law potentially saved more than 60 lives and $107,000 million dollars.

A February 2011 report from the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning confirms that repeal of our current law would cost lives and dollars. These are two good reasons for having an all-rider helmet law and we suspect the public understands this and therefore, supports our current law. We should not have a law just because a majority of citizens want it. And we shouldn’t repeal it just because a small biker group wants it repealed (Michigan ABATE membership is estimated at 4,000 – less than 1 percent of the residents in Michigan who have a cycle endorsement).

Steven M. Gursten is partner of Michigan Auto Law and is recognized as one of the nation’s top motorcycle attorneys. 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.

– Photo courtesy of Creative Commons, by Mike Licht NotionsCapital.com

Other blogs from this series:

Motorcycle helmet laws save lives

Motorcycle helmet laws increase helmet use

Why wearing a motorcycle helmet is fiscally responsible

Motorcycle deaths and injuries are climbing

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 attorneys.

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