Editorial: Helmet repeal bad for bikers, drivers

Published 2:40 pm Sunday, June 12, 2011

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Legislation approved by the Senate Transportation Committee to allow motorcyclists to ride without a helmet on the state’s roadways will increase motorcyclist fatalities and injuries and costs to all insurance policyholders.

Why does this keep coming up to repeal common sense?

An Office of Highway Safety Planning analysis found that repeal of the state’s mandatory motorcycle helmet law will result in 30 additional fatalities each year, with 127 more incapacitating injuries and $129 million in additional economic costs to Michigan citizens.

Motorcycle wrecks represent some of the most disturbing instances of carnage we are called on to cover. A quick, incomprehensive check of our archives yields an indication of how the “typical” cycle crash occurs in a myriad of ways.

We found but one report where a Cassopolis man wearing a helmet died anyway in 1999, hitting a Howard Township fence.

In 2004, a Jones man slid down the pavement for 50 feet after colliding with a deer west of Vandalia.

In July 2002, Dowagiac residents laid their bike on its side in Howard Township, not to evade deer, but a large tree across the road and downed power lines.

In May in Wayne Township, an Indiana man was hurt when a St. Joseph driver pulled in front of his bike.

A Niles man was injured in October 2010 in Mason Township when a motorist didn’t see his motorcycle.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that in the three years after Florida’s repeal of its mandatory helmet law there was an 81 percent increase in fatalities and an 80 percent increase in hospital admissions for head injuries.

Motorcycle crashes account for a disproportionate share of money paid out of the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association (MCCA), a fund supported by a surcharge on every auto insurance policy in this state.

Although motorcyclists represent 2 percent of assessments paid into the MCCA, they account for 5 percent of money paid out. And motorcyclists represent 7.3 percent of all claims reported to the MCCA.

If the mandatory helmet law is repealed, serious injuries to motorcyclists will surely rise.

Since Michigan’s no-fault law allows lifetime benefits for all “reasonable and necessary” medical costs, the number of claims and the amount paid by the MCCA to reimburse insurance companies will increase, causing all policyholders in Michigan to pay more.

Every driver of a vehicle in Michigan, except motorcyclists, must maintain Personal Injury Protection coverage, which includes unlimited, lifetime medical coverage.

Motorcyclists are not required to have this kind of coverage, but are allowed to file claims against the insured automobile driver for their injuries resulting from an accident involving an automobile.

“The consequences of a person’s decision not to wear a helmet is borne by all of society through higher insurance premiums, lost productivity and increased health care costs,” Kuhnmuench said. Is that fair?