Archived Story

Helmet law repeal a bad idea

Published 10:27pm Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Maybe we’ve covered too many horrific motorcycle crashes, but striking Michigan’s mandatory helmet law for riders and passengers older than 21 is a bad idea.
The law saved lives, held down costs and the public supports it.
A March 2011 AAA Michigan poll found 81 percent of respondents favored maintaining the law.
In our own online poll, 75 percent of 48 voters feel it’s a bad move, while 25 percent like it.
Gov. Jennifer Granholm twice vetoed such a bill.
Gov. Rick Snyder has 14 days from April 2 to sign it.
Cass County experienced six fatal motorcycle crashes in the past four years, including three in 2008 and one each in 2011, 2010 and 2009.
In 93 other motorcycle mishaps, 68 involved injuries and 25 did not, meaning a motorcycle crash makes it more likely to be hurt than in other vehicles.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), helmets are estimated to reduce the likelihood of death in a motorcycle crash by 37 percent and 69 percent effective in preventing brain injuries.
In 2010, there were 3,285 motorcycle-related crashes in Michigan. Deaths resulting from these crashes increased to 120 from 103 in 2009.
Death rates from head injuries are twice as high among motorcyclists in states with no helmet laws or laws that apply only to young riders, compared with states where laws apply to all.
NHTSA estimates that from 1984 through 2006, helmets saved 19,230 motorcycle riders’ lives.
Florida, Kentucky and Louisiana struck down helmet laws. Deaths and injuries are rising.
NHTSA found that in three years after Florida’s 2000 repeal of its mandatory helmet law, motorcyclist deaths increased 81 percent to 933. Fatalities grew by more than half in Kentucky and 100 percent in Louisiana.
The helmet law is an insurance issue because of the disproportionate share paid from the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association fund supported by a surcharge on every auto insurance policy. Motorcyclists represent 2 percent of assessments paid into the MCCA, but account for 5 percent of payouts.
Since Michigan’s no-fault law allows lifetime benefits for “reasonable and necessary” medical costs, all policyholders in Michigan will pay more, according to Lori Conarton of the Insurance Institute of Michigan.
Motorcycle riders who crash without a helmet face larger hospital bills than those who protected their heads, a University of Michigan study found.
Opponents believe the law infringes on freedom of choice and predict an influx of tourist dollars, since neighbors Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin require only some riders to wear helmets. We’re not buying it.

Editor's Picks