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House Repeals State Helmet Law, AAA Michigan Calls Vote 'Tragic'

DEARBORN, Mich., Nov. 10, 2004 -- A bill designed to repeal Michigan's mandatory motorcycle helmet law was passed by the State House of Representatives today (November 10), in an apparent bid to take advantage of a lame duck legislature -- with 36 House members leaving. The final vote was 69-37 in favor with four members passing.

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."

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Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data, which shows that, in states where the mandatory helmet laws are repealed or weakened, motorcycle fatalities increased substantially: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

HB 4325 will move to the Michigan Senate for a vote and must pass the Senate and be signed by the governor before becoming law.


* In 2003, there were 3,187 motorcycle-involved crashes in Michigan in which 76 riders were killed and 2,644 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