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Predictions of the helmet law – We cannot underestimate motorcyclist injuries and deaths

December 20, 2012 by Steven M. Gursten

MLive analysis says 10 percent more serious motorcycle accidents since repeal is “no big spike”

motorcyclist injuries since repealThis month, MLive has been covering the effects of the Michigan motorcycle helmet law repeal.

Here are two interesting stories about how predictions of the motorcycle helmet repeal have turned out so far, and some complicated twists of the law.

Injuries, insurance and tourism – how predictions about Michigan’s new helmet choice law turned out

First helmetless death after new law illustrates complexities behind many motorcycle crashes

While Mlive has really put great time and energy into these stories, and given us some very helpful information, as an attorney who litigates serious motorcycle accident injury cases,  I believe some of the statements from these articles are misguided.  It’s still too early to fully measure the devastating effects of letting our bikers ride helmetless.

For instance, in the story about injuries insurance and tourism, the writer states that the number and dead and seriously injured motorcycle riders hasn’t spiked, according an MLive Media Group analysis of more than 3,700 motorcycle crashes.

Yet the same story says that severe crashes are up 10 %, but there is “no big spike.”

Through Nov. 19, 2012, there were 748 deaths and serious injuries as a result of motorcycle crashes in Michigan. That’s up from 680 for the same period in 2011, a 10 percent increase.

Ten percent is a significant spike this early, and it is still very early. As time goes on, The University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute forecasts the number of motorcycle riders killed or and seriously injured motorcycle riders would increase 45 percent in a year with the helmet law repeal.

Also, the data from other states that repealed their helmet laws showed huge jumps in motorcycle accident fatalities.  So, my own analysis is that it is still  too early to say  there hasn’t been a serious spike in preventable deaths.

Helmets make for safer riders and fewer accidents

Still, according to the story, years of crash statistics collected by U-M show motorcycle riders who wear helmets are less likely to suffer serious injuries in a crash. This is also supported by MLive’s six-month analysis, which found riders without helmets were 43 percent more likely to suffer incapacitating injuries and three times more likely to die.

To do your own investigating, MLive has provided a search tool that shows how Michigan motorcyclists with and without helmets fared in motorcycle accidents in different cities.

Don’t blame the bikers, blame Governor Snyder

Additionally, in the story “First helmetless death…,” the author tells the story of Ronnie Weissand, who was the first motorcyclist in Michigan without his helmet to die in an accident.

The author states that in helmetless motorcycle deaths, there is often not just one contributor. This is true.

The article also says that studies show bikers without helmets have greater rates of driving errors and are found to be under the influence more often.

While those factors are certainly true in many motorcycle accident cases, the statistics from other states made the case against repealing our helmet law very simple.  But our government chose to ignore the data, because the Republicans especially, and also Governor Snyder, found it politically expedient to do so, even if it costs the state millions of dollars more as catastrophically injured riders are pushed onto Medicaid rolls for lifetime medical care and treatment. Not exactly what we would expect from our “moderate Republican governor from Ann Arbor.” But then again, that was before the Governor signed the abortion bill and right to work bill last week as well.  The data showing how important it is to first protect our motorcyclists’ lives by requiring them to wear life-saving helmets was before the Governor, but the bill repealing our helmet law got signed into law anyway.

So when motorcyclists without helmets die, we can also blame our Michigan Legislature and Governor Snyder, who didn’t care  enough in the first place to require them to wear helmets.


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