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Gov. Snyder signs repeal of Michigan’s motorcycle helmet law

April 13, 2012 by Steven M. Gursten

Dear Snyder, these are the deadly, costly consequences of repealing Michigan’s helmet law: increase in motorcycle deaths, serious personal injury and big jump in expensive medical costs

Our worst predictions have come true. Gov. Snyder has signed the repeal of Michigan’s nearly 40-year-old, lifesaving mandatory motorcycle helmet law.

This means motorcyclists 21 and older who have certain certifications can now legally ride without a motorcycle helmet. It would also require them to purchase $20,000 in No-Fault PIP coverage in case of a motorcycle accident.

Let’s be honest, please.

Compared to the costs in human lives, catastrophic injuries and increased medical costs, the so-called “reasons” for repealing Michigan’s motorcycle helmet law are almost laughable (not that it stops the proponents from groups like ABATE from pushing for repeal in Michigan).

Brace yourself. Here are the reasons being given for repeal:

o Increased tourism.
o Personal choice (or the “wind-in-the-hair” argument).
o More bikers will buy more alcohol in Michigan.

Now let’s weigh these reasons against how the repeal of Michigan’s motorcycle helmet law will cause more motorcyclists to die, more motorcyclists to be seriously injured, and a staggering increase in the accident-related medical costs for motorcycle riders.

Personal costs of Michigan motorcycle helmet repeal

Motorcyclists will overwhelming bear the brunt of a repeal of Michigan’s motorcycle helmet law.

1. Motorcycle accident-related fatalities and incapacitating injuries are predicted to increase by approximately 88 percent: According to a study from the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning, a repeal of Michigan’s nearly 40-year-old, lifesaving, mandatory motorcycle helmet law would cause motorcycle deaths and serious injuries to jump from the five-year average of 773 to 1,457.

2. Motorcycle accident-related fatalities have skyrocketed in other states after repeal of their mandatory helmet laws: After Florida, Kentucky and Louisiana repealed their motorcycle helmet laws, motorcycle accident fatalities increased by 81 percent, 50 percent and 100 percent, respectively, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data cited by the Insurance Institute of Michigan.

Financial costs of Michigan motorcycle helmet repeal

As fatalities and serious injuries increase in the wake of the repeal of Michigan’s motorcycle helmet law, motorcycle accident-related medical costs will rise, increasing the financial burden on both victims and their families and Michigan taxpayers.

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.”

In a separate analysis of SB 291, the House Fiscal Agency warned of significant increased Medicaid costs imposed on taxpayers (that’s you and me) with a motorcycle-helmet-law repeal:

“The state could also experience additional costs in the Medicaid program. This bill relaxes the requirements for crash helmet use and it is expected that injuries and fatalities would increase as a result of lower helmet use. With the potential for more injuries, the expectation is that insurance costs may go up and Medicaid assistance would increase.”

Additionally, the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning study noted that “a recent University of Michigan trauma center study showed motorcyclists not wearing helmets incurred twenty percent higher in-patient costs due to crashes. This averaged out to approximately $6,000.00 per individual.”

Finally, data from the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association shows that nearly 8 percent of all reported and paid catastrophic claims already involve motorcycle-crash victims. Of course, the number of claims can be expected to increase dramatically as more unhelmeted motorcyclists are on the road.

Currently, a catastrophic claim is defined as a claim whose medical costs exceed $500,000.

‘Reasons’ for motorcycle helmet repeal

According to the House Fiscal Agency’s Legislative Analysis of SB 291:

“The basic argument for repealing or modifying the helmet law is that wearing a helmet, or not wearing one, should be a matter of personal choice and not a legal mandate. …

* * *

“The current law discourages out-of-state motorcyclists from traveling to Michigan. Changes to the state’s helmet laws are likely to increase tourism spending …”

Additionally, an excellent recent column by Jack Lessenberry on the motorcycle helmet repeal revealed the liquor lobby as a main player in pushing SB 291, stating that proponents want to sell more liquor in Michigan to more motorcyclists.

Folks, you just can’t make this stuff up sometimes. The liquor lobby wants helmet law repeal so it can sell more liquor to motorcyclists.

Shame those folks from the liquor lobby won’t be there to pick up the pieces after, or help Michigan taxpayers with the bills, or rebuild the shattered lives of families burdened with the untimely death of a loved one, or the responsibility of lifetime care for a helmet-less motorcycle enthusiast with a severe traumatic brain injury…

And shame on Gov. Snyder for passing this motorcycle helmet law repeal.

Steven M. Gursten is a motorcycle accident lawyer and head of Michigan Auto Law. Steve has received the highest motorcycle injury settlement in the state, according to Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He frequently appears in the media on motorcycle safety and the proposed helmet repeal, and is available for comment.

– Photo courtesy of Creative Commons, by MikeLicht, NotionsCapital.com

Related information to protect yourself:

Helmet law repeal is not a freedom to cause injury, cost to the taxpayers

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

What insurance is required for Michigan motorcyclists?

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 lawyers.

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12 Replies to “Gov. Snyder signs repeal of Michigan’s motorcycle helmet law”

  1. No where in the US Constitution does it give away my right to chose . The majority of riders will ride as safe as they feel comfortable. We know the risk involved. Find out how many of those wrecks are caused by ” I didn’t.see him ” drivers of cars.
    I think everyone who swims should wear a life jacket. The Orange kind that rolls you over. Everyone driving a car should have to wear a helmet ,a HANS device and modify their restraint system to a 4 point harness. And add a full frame roll cage.
    If you ride a horse , helmet motorcycle approved. Walk to the store , helmet and wear a blink red light on your back. Sounds ridiculous. All roads, highways etc were paid for by taxpayers. Last I checked I paid my registration and taxes.
    You quote all these numbers and percentages yet you don’t elaborate because it won’t help your biased opinionated story. Again how many motorcycle accidents were solo, how many with cars. Make motorcycle safety mandatory for all. Make it part of autos as well. EDUCATE.

  2. they put the stats on the death rate, but they do not state CAUSE OF ACCIDENT! well over 80% of accidents are due to negligent drivers not paying attention and the ever so famous line ” i didnt see them” its not because of the biker did or did not have a helmet on its because of inconsiderate motorist. They failed to mention the % of death due to helmets being worn. so before anyone starts crying about the appeal, how about seeing ALL the facts and the one about bikers buying more alcohal, that is straight BS, thats like saying someone with a convertible is going to by more alcohal….

  3. Are you kidding…what makes you think that most bikers are hard drinkers! I have been riding riding for years and I know that most bikers will not drink when they are riding. We already know the risk every time we get on our bikes especially with all the idiots in their cars that are texting, talking on the phone, eating and doing everything but driving and we also know that we don’t need to increase the risk. The gov has given us a choice and I for one and many of my fellow bikers will still wear a helmet especially in the city and congested areas but on a beautiful sunny day out in the country you can bet your #%+* I will loose the bucket. There is no better feeling. So don’t profile us bikers as heavy drinkers unless you know what you are talking about. Lastly did you know that DOT helmets only protect you up to 30 mph after that it doesn’t much matter if you are wearing it or not. So when you grow a pair hop two wheels and join us…you will never feel the same.


  5. That comment that says bikers will drink more alochol JUST because they don’t have to wear a helmet is about the STUPIDEST comment I’ve EVER read!! It makes me want to stop reading and throw out my computor. Morons like that should never be allowed to express their thoughts to the public. I’m “A BIKER” and I NEVER EVER drink alochol and ride. Riding is a big enough thrill. So, drink that down.

  6. I personally think this is the best thing for Michigan and all states, I am fed up with being told I need to wear a helmet, I am a skilled rider and it should be my choice!!!!!!

  7. For those that drink or don’t drink when riding I have two comments, #1 you are missing the point of the repercussions of the law and #2 just visit “Bike Night” in local communities; you know, the ones that are sponsored by the local bars. For those of you who say you drive with safety in mind first congratulations but why should you be stating the obvious. It appears from the comments that many think the accidents are not caused by the motorcyclists but by other vehicles who did not see them. Well I say to that, DUH!. That is the point, you have no control over other drivers. You may be the safest rider in the world but if someone else causes you to have have a closed head injury your significant other or a nursing home will be spending the rest of their lives feeding you your oatmeal, and if you have kids, they’ll be standing by watching. And Please Please Please do not invite me to your Spaghetti Dinner Fundraiser to help pay for your medical bills.

    Our governor simply traded in a few lives to please his lobbyists. Nice going gov.

  8. John Schwaiger and Chris Miller,

    Respectfully, I believe you may have misunderstood what I said in my blog post. I am in no way saying that Michigan motorcyclists are alcoholics – although after helping people injured in motorcycle accidents for almost 20 years, I do think you must have “impaired” judgment to ride a motorcycle without a helmet!

    But what I was saying is that the Michigan liquor lobby was pushing hard for repeal. Now, why does the liquor lobby care? Perhaps, as Jack Lessenberry said in his column, with the hopes that more motorcycle operators will buy more liquor. That does now lead us to the question of how do these same motorcycle operators get back to the hotel they are staying at or back home from the bar where they are buying this liquor?

    The important point here is that if the liquor lobby was pushing this, then they have the numbers from their bean counters telling them there would be an increase in liquor sales in this state as a result. So the liquor lobby has a dog in this fight, so to speak. And the liquor lobby linking any increase in liquor sales to the helmet law repeal law just doesn’t bode well for the safety of motorcycle operators in this state.

  9. I’m a rider and think this is riding without a helmet is absurd! 47% of motorcycle accidents involve no other parties. 100% operator error, and of the 53% more than you would like to admit are because the motorcyclist “didn’t see” the car, train, or bicyclist. Read the link below if you think this is a bunch of smoke.

    I love the motorcycles and riding but use your brains here. The reason drivers “didn’t see you,” is that you are too cool to wear anything that anyone can see from more than 10 feet away in the middle of the night. Black isnt a smart choice.ets not all regress to 6th grade, the smart decision is topically not the one that will win you popularity contests. It it will be the one the keeps you alive. Try to be seen and you might have a claim next time.

    And please stop ignoring the overwhelming facts of how you will die or cause your family that much more pain and grief by having to be cared for for the rest of your missrable life because you “needed your freedom!”


  10. Really people? Helmets should be a choice, as well as seatbelts!! And you can show me all the stats you want to, idiot drivers that say they didnt see us are the cause. They didnt look, they were in too much of a hurry to get around the car in front of them! No turn signals on that car? People are too busy in their cars, they dont have time to PAY ATTENTION to the task at hand, DRIVING!!! As for the alcohol comment, just ridiculous, look at all the cars swerving in and out of their lanes these days, they must be drunk, or are they texting?

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