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3 years after MI motorcycle helmet repeal, injuries and deaths soar

January 28, 2016 by Steven M. Gursten

Study shows deaths at motorcycle accident and crash scenes have quadrupled

MI helmet repeal

This is one case where I wish my predictions after Gov. Snyder repealed our mandatory motorcycle helmet law were wrong.  I said in April 2012, when I was asked by the newspapers what would happen after Michigan’s motorcycle helmet repeal became law, that sadly more motorcyclists would be seriously injured and killed when crashes occur, as they predictably would.

Unfortunately, I have been proven correct.

The statistics prove that Gov. Snyder and the Michigan Legislature made a deadly mistake that has cost lives. The latest come from a recent study, discussed in a Reuters story by Madeline Kennedy, “Biker Injuries And Deaths Soar After Michigan Repeals Helmet Law. In short, the study found that in the three years after Michigan repealed our helmet law, deaths and head injuries have risen sharply among motorcyclists.

Senior study author Dr. Carlos Rodriguez and his researches reported these grisly findings in the American Journal of Surgery:

  • Deaths at the scene of the crash more than quadrupled, with the proportion of bikers not wearing helmets rising from 14% before the helmet repeal to 68% after.
  • Deaths in the hospital tripled, with 10% of motorcyclists dying, compared to 3% of those who had been wearing helmets.
  • Head injuries have increased overall, and more of them are severe, with more non-helmeted patients staying longer in the Intensive Care Unit needing machine assistance with breathing.
  • Among the accident victims brought to the hospital after the repeal, the proportion of riders who had not been wearing a helmet rose from 7% to 28%.

Like our own motorcycle accident attorneys saw our own spike in serious injuries and deaths, Dr. Rodriguez noticed the serious increase right after the helmet repeal law passed.  In fact, he noticed it in the first week. He told Reuters Health, “I just could not help but notice the number of patients that had been in motorcycle crashes with no helmet on, which was enormously different in number and volume than we had experienced the weekend before.”

The study reviewed records for patients admitted to Spectrum Health Hospital, in Grand Rapids, MI. Researchers also reviewed state transportation department records of fatalities at crash scenes for the seven-month motorcycle season (April to November) in 2011, before the law was repealed, and for the same period in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

Another interesting revelation from the study is that motorcyclists without helmets also drank more alcohol after the law was repealed, based on blood tests at hospital admission. This goes exactly to my point about our government looking to appease Michigan’s liquor lobby as one of the reasons for passing the helmet repeal.

Aiming to appease a lobbying group to sell more booze in Michigan doesn’t seem like a justified reason for all of these senseless, preventable motorcycle deaths, does it, Gov. Snyder?

This issue is sadly fascinating in many respects. Many other Michigan accident attorneys that try to appeal to motorcycle operators have been silent on this issue, or even spoken out in favor of the helmet repeal because they think they will lose potential clients injured in these crashes by opposing the measure.

To me, this is just as cowardly as the lawmakers in Lansing who were cowering from single-issue voters from groups like ABATE. They knew more people would die and be seriously injured in motorcycle crashes, and that would cost Michigan citizens more in taxes to cover the medical bills for bikers with serious and catastrophic injuries. Yet it was a vote they were willing to take to preserve their own jobs.

It’s time for our Michigan lawmakers to take a second look at the helmet repeal mistake they made three years ago and to right their mistake now.

What is Michigan’s motorcycle helmet law?

Since the repeal of Michigan’s 35-year-old helmet law, motorcyclists can ride with the wind in their hair if they are over 21, have had their  license for at least two years and purchase at least $20,000 in additional medical insurance coverage.

Related info:

7 reasons every state should pass a motorcycle helmet law

What motorcycle insurance is required in Michigan?

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