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Helmet Law Repeal Would Increase Deaths and Injuries, Says AAA

DEARBORN, Mich., May 26 -- A bill designed to repeal Michigan's mandatory motorcycle helmet law would increase the number of state motorcycle deaths and injuries if passed into law, said AAA Michigan today (May 26). Members of the House Transportation Committee will vote tomorrow (May 27, 2004) on whether to move the bill forward.

HB 4325, sponsored by Rep. Leon C. Drolet (R-Clinton Township), 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.

"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 J. Miller, manager of Community Safety Services for AAA Michigan. "Motorcycle riders are much more at risk than persons driving or riding in a passenger vehicle."

Since motorcyclists are exempt from Personal Injury Protection coverage and often ride uninsured, said AAA, all Michigan drivers pay higher insurance premiums to cover these losses.

The high rate of catastrophic injury is reflected in data from the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association (MCCA). According to the MCCA, although fewer than 2 percent of all registered motor vehicles in Michigan are motorcycles, 6.3 percent of all reported claims are from motorcyclists.

Miller also cited National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data, which shows that, in states where the mandatory helmet laws are repealed or weakened, motorcycle fatalities increased substantially:

  State               Percent increase in motorcycle fatalities

  Arkansas            21 percent
  Kentucky            34 percent
  Louisiana           48 percent
  Texas               31 percent

Nationwide, motorcycle fatality rates have been rising. The total number of fatalities is up 53 percent between 1997 (2,116 deaths) and 2002 (3,244 deaths). In addition, the fatality rate per 100,000 registered motorcycles is up -- from 55.3 in 1997 to 65.2 in 2001.


* In 2002, there were 3,030 motorcycle-involved crashes in Michigan in which 82 riders were killed and 2,470 injured.

* Helmets are 67-percent effective in preventing brain injury.

* The average paid catastrophic motorcycle claim in Michigan is $402,386, up from $377,830 in 2001.

* By an overwhelming majority (81 percent), Americans favor state laws requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets.

Sources: Michigan State Police Office of Highway Safety Planning (OHSP), Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association (MCCA), Lou Harris