Michigan lawmakers on Thursday passed Senate Bill 297, which repeals the state’s 36-year-old mandatory motorcycle helmet law.
It is estimated that the repeal will result in 22 additional fatalities each year, along with 132 more incapacitating injuries, 610 other injuries and $140 million in added economic costs to Michigan citizens.
The bill will move to the House of Representatives, which has introduced its own helmet law repeal bill. Rep. Tom Casperson (R-Escanaba) introduced HB 4504 (March 16), and that bill has been referred to the House Transportation Committee for debate. Both the House and the Senate will recess for Spring Break on March 24 and will reconvene April 12.
“We are disappointed and saddened that state lawmakers have chosen this course of action,” said Richard Miller, manager of Community Safety Services for AAA Michigan. “It makes absolutely no sense to make optional the only validated personal safety device available to a motorcycle rider,” Miller added.
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.
In every state that has enacted motorcycle helmet law repeals, helmet use has reportedly 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 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 means the vast majority of this number are also uninsured.
Nationwide, motorcycle fatality rates have 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.
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