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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have skyrocketed in other states after repeal of their mandatory helmet laws: After Florida, Kentucky and Louisiana repealed their motorcycle helmet laws, motorcycle accident fatalities increased by 81 percent, 50 percent and 100 percent, respectively, according to National Highway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 (800) 777-0028 for a free consultation with one of our Michigan motorcycle accident lawyers.

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