Mich. AAA Oppose Lawmakers’ Attempt to Repeal State Helmet Law

May 26, 2006

An informal AAA poll of state lawmakers suggests that the Michigan House of Representatives has the number of votes needed to repeal the state’s 37-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.

According to the AAA Michigan, 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 2005, there were 3,605 motorcycle- involved crashes in Michigan in which 122 riders were killed and 2,721 injured.

“We are disappointed and saddened that state lawmakers are considering this course of action,” said Jack Peet, 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.”

Nationwide and in Michigan, motorcycle deaths continue to rise. In 2004, more than 4,000 people died on motorcycles in the United States — an increase of 8 percent from the previous year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

SB 297 is expected to move out of the House Transportation Committee for a full House vote in the coming weeks. SB 297 was approved by the Senate in March 2005. In every state that has enacted motorcycle helmet law repeals, helmet use has plummeted by an average 42 percent, said Peet. 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 cost in lives and dollars: 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.

Nationwide, motorcycle fatality rates have been rising. The total number of fatalities is up 89 percent between 1997 (2,116 deaths) and 2003 (4,008 deaths). In addition, the fatality rate per 100,000 registered motorcycles is up — from 55.3 in 1997 to 69.1 in 2003.

The AAA said it would continue to oppose legislation that leads to unnecessary deaths and injuries on highways at a cost that would be mostly borne by the citizens of Michigan. A 2005 AAA survey shows that nearly 90 percent of AAA Michigan members oppose a repeal of the state’s mandatory motorcycle helmet law.

The AAA offers the following facts on motorcycle facts and figures:

* The number of motorcycles registered in the state over a six-year period have increased by 45 percent. The largest increase in licensed motorcyclists was among those aged 45-64.

* Michigan experienced a 20 percent increase in the number of motorcycle crashes during the same timeframe.

* Approximately 44 percent of motorcyclists involved in a crash were not legally licensed to operate a motorcycle.

* The largest increase in crash rates was among motorcyclists age 30-44, which increased by 52 percent.

* Nearly 80 percent of motorcycle crashes result in death or injury.

Source: AAA Michigan

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