REPEAL OF HELMET LAW
House Transportation Committee votes to repeal helmet law
A 9-5 vote by the House Transportation Committee Wednesday threatens to repeal a statewide helmet law that has saved an estimated 769 lives in Michigan over the last 10 years.* House Bill 4284, which eases restrictions on a 1968 state mandatory helmet law, now goes to the state House for a full vote.
"We are saddened that a governmental body would actually consider legislation which could put motorcyclists and others in such peril," said Larry Givens, AAA Michigan Vice President Corporate Relations. "There is no question a repeal of this type would lead to a substantial increase in fatal crashes and serious head injuries."
A statewide survey last summer by EPIC/MRA found that 77 percent supported Michigan's mandatory helmet law.
Voting in favor of the repeal:
Rep. Bob Brown (D-Dearborn Heights)
Rep. Candace Curtis (D-Swartz Creek)
Rep. David Galloway (R-White Lake)
Rep. John Gernaat (R-McBain)
Rep. Mike Green (R-Mayville)
Rep. Burton Leland (D-Detroit)
Rep. Thomas Middleton (R-Ortonville)
Rep. Dennis Olshove (D-Warren)
Rep. Mark Schauer (D-Battle Creek)
Voting against the repeal:
Rep. Paul Baade (D-Muskegon)
Rep. Patricia Birkholz (R-Saugatuck)
Rep. William Byl (R-Grand Rapids)
Rep. Terry London (R-Marysville)
Rep. Paul Wojno (D-Warren)
Committee members voted in favor of the helmet repeal despite testimony from medical practitioners and traffic safety researchers which showed dramatic increases in the death and injury rate for motorcyclists not wearing helmets.
"Helmets are enormously effective in reducing deaths and serious injury," said Patricia Waller, Director of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI). "The most in-depth study ever conducted of motorcycle crashes identifies helmets as the single most important protective measure that can be taken by motorcyclists."
A study released in 1996 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) showed that, for those involved in a crash, helmet use reduced the odds of dying by 35 percent.
Since helmet laws were enacted in Michigan, the number of deaths has dropped dramatically, from a high of 209 recorded in 1973, to the 82 fatals reported by Michigan State Police in 1995. In 1973, 10,911 persons were injured on motorcycles in Michigan, compared to 2,324 in 1995.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, helmets are effective when worn, but without helmet use laws, only about 50 percent of riders wear them. Use rates jump to virtually 100 percent when universal helmet laws are enacted.
"Some may say this is an issue of personal rights--that motorcyclists should have the right to choose," said Givens. "But taxpayers foot the bill for many of the increased costs which result from lack of helmet use. The societal cost must also be weighed against these individual rights."
According to Waller, a Washington state study found that more than 60 percent of the cost of caring for injured motorcyclists was paid from public funds.
AAA Michigan urges motorists to contact their state representatives to voice strong opposition to HB 4284.
* Based on a 10-year average (1986-1995) of actual motorcycle deaths in Michigan. UMTRI statistics suggest that death rates from head injuries are twice as high in states with weak helmet laws or no helmet laws.
AAA News Wire Index
Released : Thursday, June 19, 1997
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