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How many Michigan motorcyclists will die if we have a helmet law repeal — and who will pay?

December 30, 2011 by Steven M. Gursten

Motorcycle accident attorney and safety advocate discuss increase in motorcycle deaths and taxpayer costs if helmet law is repealed

I’d like to share some important information from SMARTER, a Michigan-based motorcycle safety organization.

This is from an editorial SMARTER President Dan Petterson wrote to the Lansing State Journal, in which he discusses the deadly — and financial — consequences of the proposed state motorcycle law helmet repeal, SB 291.

“The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control tells us that our current helmet law saves 25 lives and $43 million per year per 100,000 registered motorcycles.

Given that in 2010, Michigan had 266,772 motorcycle registrations (Michigan Traffic Crash Facts), we could expect an annual increase of as many as 66 deaths and as much as $114.7 million in costs added to the estimated $400 million we already pay (in monetary costs for motorcycle accident victims alone).”

The $400 million in monetary costs for motorcycle accident victims that Dan is referring to includes payments for hospital and physician care, emergency medical transport, rehabilitation, prescriptions, allied health services, medical devices, nursing home care, insurance-claims processing, coroner and premature burial costs (for motorcycle accident fatalities), future earnings (including wages, fringe benefits and housework lost by the injured), public services (including initial police response and follow-up investigation as well as emergency transport and fire services) and property damage.

According to the University of Michigan Traffic Research Institute (Societal Costs of Traffic Crashes and Crimes in Michigan: 2011 Update), crash-involved motorcyclists account for $400 million in annual monetary costs for the motorcyclist only.

A review of SB 291: This pending legislation would repeal Michigan’s nearly 40-year-old motorcycle helmet law requirement. If passed, it would allow Michigan motorcyclists who are at least 21 years old to ride without a helmet. SB 291 also requires bikers to purchase only $20,000 in PIP No-Fault insurance coverage.

I’ve been telling people all along that the $20,000 PIP insurance requirement is woefully inadequate and will likely be exhausted before a motorcycle accident victim with serious personal injuries is released from the hospital. Then, the cost of future lifetime care for that injured motorcycle operator will be shifted to Medicaid.

You can’t measure the toll of (at least) 66 preventable deaths of motorcycle accident victims who were not wearing their helmets.

And like Petterson told the Lansing State Journal, “The emotional toll for Michigan citizens who lose a friend or loved one in a motorcycle crash has a steep financial counterpart that we all pay.”

Steven M. Gursten is recognized as one of the nation’s top motorcycle accident attorneys. Steve received the highest motorcycle injury settlement in the state last year, according to Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He has appeared on television regarding the helmet law issue and is available for comment.

– Photo courtesy of Creative Commons, by Mike Licht

Related information to protect yourself:

Ignore the spiel on the motorcycle helmet law repeal

Michigan motorcycle accident law FAQs

Motorcycle accident lawyer on Channel 4, helmet repeal hurts us all

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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3 Replies to “How many Michigan motorcyclists will die if we have a helmet law repeal — and who will pay?”

  1. As a Cincinnati Ohio personal injury lawyer I have to disagree with your position. Very few deaths in my opinion would be prevented by repeal.

    While I advocate people learn to ride their motorcycles safely and would not tell someone not to wear a helmet I think we need not play into the hands of the inurance company and penalize people regarding helmet use.

  2. The law will not make more deaths period. If you go down at 60 MPH or a car pulls in front of you at that speed (or less) A helmet is not going to do anything. Been riding the road for 32 years and can expertly say it wont help in most cases. As for the insurance situation… its a scam for the insurance companies to make more money!! Duh!!!

  3. It’s not about the deaths, although that’s a concern. It’s about catastrophic accidents where the victim survives. The question then becomes who pays?

    Motorcyclists who have an accident with no motor vehicle involved will come out of taxpayer money after they’ve exhausted their coverage. Who can project how long a surviving accident victim will draw on those resources based on the severity of the injuries (likely increased without helmets). In a car it is the law to wear a seatbelt.

    Motorcyclists who don’t have a helmet on and are involved in (or say they’re involved in) an accident with a car, resulting in say a closed head injury, will blow through their PIP coverage and draw from the MCCA fund having not paid an equal share as cars on the road. Fine you can say this eats into insurance company profits, but they just pass it on to cars because we HAVE TO PAY the MCCA fee; it’s almost transparent to them other than we may be a little peeved at our increased premiums courtesy of a higher MCCA assessment. (Anybody notice it’s going up $30 to $175 as of July 1, 2012?)

    So not only are they drawing from a system they’ve not paid into equally (at cost to those who do pay into it), while they have likely contributed to the increased severity of their injuries by NOT wearing a helmet. If you want the responsibility of choosing to wear a helmet, then accept the other part, which is paying into the system same as everyone else. So that is why it was under consideration with No-Fault reforms because if we redefine motorcycles as motor vehicles, then maybe the helmet repeal makes sense. http://www.michigan.gov/documents/cis/ip227_172811_7.pdf

    Opinions about the government getting in your business aside, look at the issue as comprehensively as possible, and talk solutions not rhetoric and vitriol.

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