National Group Commends Mich. Governor on Helmet Bill Veto

June 27, 2006

The American Insurance Association (AIA) commended Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm for vetoing legislation that would have repealed the state’s 37-year old, life-saving all-rider motorcycle helmet law.

Granholm vetoed the bill on Friday, June 23rd approximately two weeks after the Michigan legislature passed the bill to repeal the helmet law and after weeks of speculation by many that she may veto the action many said she did not support.

According to the AIA, SB 297 would have made wearing a motorcycle helmet optional for those 21 and over, and would have exacted a terrible toll on Michigan’s citizens in lost lives, more severe traffic crash injuries and increased medical costs. In fact, according to a 2004 study by the Michigan State Police Office of Highway Safety Planning, it was estimated that every year 22 more people would have died and more than 740 would have been injured if SB 297 were allowed to become law.

“Gov. Granholm recognized that repealing this critical safety measure would be a severe blow to the safety of those traveling on Michigan’s roadways,” said David Snyder, AIA vice president and general counsel. “Repeal of this law is advocated by those claming to support personal choice and freedom, but the fact is that by preventing unnecessary injuries and deaths, helmet laws actually enable people to fully exercise their most precious constitutional freedoms.”

“Helmet laws do not restrict travel choices and do not infringe on the ability to ride motorcycles,” stated Snyder. “Helmet laws only require that when you ride a motorcycle you take a few necessary precautions – just like wearing seat belts in cars.”

“We hope this positive action by the Michigan governor will help begin to reverse the recent trend of repealing motorcycle helmet laws that we’ve seen in several states,” continued Snyder. “Where the laws have been repealed, helmet use drops by nearly 50 percent, and deaths, serious injuries and related economic losses multiply.”

For example, in 1997, Arkansas and Texas repealed all-rider helmet laws. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, by May 1998, helmet use had fallen from 97 percent in both states to 52 percent in Arkansas and 66 percent in Texas. The most tragic result is that motorcycle operator fatalities increased by 21 percent in Arkansas and 31 percent in Texas.

“In addition to the horrible human costs, as we saw in Texas and Arkansas,” explained Snyder, “repealing the helmet law would have cost Michigan taxpayers more money,” he said. “For example, a substantial percentage of motor vehicle injury medical costs are covered by government health insurance programs. This means that the taxpayers will be forced to pay the bill for the increase in medical costs resulting from the eminently avoidable increase in tragic traffic crashes,” said Snyder.

“Further, in states that repeal motorcycle helmet laws, employers, consumers and health care providers will pay a price through the loss of productivity due to more people being involved in more severe traffic crashes and the attendant increase in medical costs,” he said. “Kudos to Gov. Granholm for recognizing that repealing Michigan’s helmet law was bad public policy. Preserving this critical life-saving law is a victory for all of Michigan’s citizens,” Snyder concluded.

The American Insurance Association represents approximately 400 major insurance companies that provide all lines of property and casualty insurance and write more than $120 billion annually

Source: American Insurance Association

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