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Why alternatives to motorcycle helmets are costly and ineffective

December 1, 2011 by Steven M. Gursten

President of SMARTER and motorcycle accident attorney give another reason Michigan should keep its motorcycle helmet requirement

Last night, I was featured on Channel 4 TV news in an investigative story about the repercussions of Michigan’s proposed helmet repeal law. The reporter, Frank McGeorge, found me because of my frequent blogs and media appearances about Michigan’s looming motorcycle helmet law repeal – and he was interested in my take the reasons why motorcyclists should wear helmets.

For the past several weeks, I’ve been writing about many of the reasons helmets are necessary, and giving hard facts and statistics to back up these reasons. My views are as a motorcycle accident attorney but also as someone concerned with the ramifications if repeal proponents get their way: Motorcycle helmets save lives, HANDS DOWN.

For those of you who are new to this particular 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 USA, a safety group for Michigan motorcycle riders, was generous enough to respond to Clay’s comment.

This is my sixth blog including individual points made from my original blog (in green type), with Clay’s reader comments (in blue type) and Petterson’s rebuttals (purple type).

Reason 6 for a helmet law: Alternatives are costly and ineffective. There is no scientific evidence that motorcycle rider training reduces crash risk and is an adequate substitute for an all-rider helmet law. A review by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation concluded that there is “no compelling evidence that rider training is associated with reductions in collisions.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also supports these claims. If elimination of risk exposure is not possible, then risk management, in the form of a universal helmet law, is the next best option.

Biker rebuttal: This point makes no sense to me. The statement is that alternatives are costly and ineffective. The only alternative you mention at all is rider training. Are you saying that the only alternative to a helmet law is a rider safety course? Are you saying that the state should provide a rider training course? Are you saying that there is no reason for a rider to take a safety course? There are other alternatives to a helmet law, ineffective or not. You might want to list them. By extension, show me the statics where a driver’s education course saves lives? Maybe those should be done away with as well?

More information from SMARTER: Advocates for helmet repeal focus on two efforts to reduce crash risk (1) rider training and (2) motorist awareness programs. Advocates for repeal often make the statement “helmets do not prevent crashes” and imply that therefore, helmets and helmet laws should not be a part or a focus of rider safety efforts. The statement “that alternatives are costly and ineffective” means first, by comparison to a helmet requirement other alternatives cost more and (2) that state all-rider helmet laws are a scientifically proven method of reducing injuries and deaths and there is no such proof regarding the alternatives.

We have never heard an advocate for all-rider helmet laws say that rider training, motorist awareness, licensing programs, helmet use promotion programs, helmet enforcement programs, alcohol impairment enforcement and education or conspicuity and protective clothing advocacy programs should be eliminated. All of these are alternatives to helmet laws. All have significant costs associated with development and implementation. None are scientifically proven effective in preventing crashes or reducing the number of crashes – that is obvious as these programs have been in effect for years and crashes still happen.

A comprehensive motorcyclist safety program would include all of these efforts – efforts that are aimed at preventing or reducing the number of crashes as well as preventing or reducing injury and death in the event of a crash. While advocates for helmet repeal want to eliminate the one scientifically proven method of reducing injury and death in the event of a crash, we have never heard an advocate for helmet laws advocate for the elimination of rider training and motorist awareness.

The only safety measure that costs little to initiate and reaches all riders is a state universal motorcycle helmet law. It is also the only measure proven to improve motorcyclist safety.

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

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

Why the public overwhelmingly supports helmet laws

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 accident attorneys.

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