SB 297 Repeals Mandatory Mich. Helmet Law

March 14, 2005

Michigan lawmakers have introduced legislation that would repeal the state’s 36-year-old mandatory motorcycle helmet law, causing an estimated 22 additional fatalities and 132 more incapacitating injuries each year.

Sponsored by Sen. Alan Cropsey (R-DeWitt), SB 297 would remove the mandatory helmet requirement for all riders and passengers 21 years of age or older, but does not require motorcycle riders to carry Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance coverage. In 2003, there were 3,187 motorcycle-involved crashes in Michigan in which 76 riders were killed and 2,644 injured.

“It is well established that motorcycle helmets decrease the severity of injury, the likelihood of death and the overall cost of medical care,” said Richard Miller, manager of Community Safety Services for AAA Michigan. “Motorcycle riders are already much more at risk than persons driving or riding in a passenger vehicle with over 80% of motorcycle crashes resulting in an injury or death to the rider.

“It makes absolutely no sense to make optional the only validated personal safety device available to a motorcycle rider,” Miller added.

In every state that has enacted motorcycle helmet law repeals, helmet use has plummeted by an average 42 percent, said Miller. In Michigan, if helmet use decreased similarly, research indicates that there would be a 41-percent reduction in the number of lives saved over a six-year period.

A 2004 Michigan State Police Office of Highway Safety Planning (OHSP) study has reportedly determined that a helmet repeal would come with a hefty annual price tag: 22 additional fatalities, 132 more incapacitating injuries, 610 other injuries and $140 million in added economic costs to Michigan citizens.

And, according to OHSP, the number of registered and unregistered motorcycles in Michigan is increasing, which means more riders on the road and more injuries and deaths virtually guaranteed in the future at an even greater cost to the public.

A 2004 study by the University of Michigan Transportation Research
Institute (UMTRI) has determined that 44 percent of motorcyclists involved in a crash are not legally licensed to operate a motorcycle. In Michigan, where a valid license is required for insurance coverage, that reportedly means the vast majority of this number are also uninsured.

Nationwide, motorcycle fatality rates have reportedly been rising. The total number of fatalities is up 73 percent between 1997 (2,116 deaths) and 2003 (3,661 deaths). In addition, the fatality rate per 100,000 registered motorcycles is up — from 55.3 in 1997 to 65.3 in 2002.

SB 297 could move to the Senate floor for a vote as early as this week. House passage and the governor’s signature are necessary before the bill becomes law.

AAA said it will be actively opposing this legislation that would reportedly lead to unnecessary deaths and injuries on the highways at a cost that would be mostly borne by the citizens of Michigan.

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