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Heads First Coalition Appeals to Governor to Keep Michigan's Motorcycle Helmet Law in Place

LANSING, Mich., June 22 -- A broad coalition of law enforcement agencies, health care practitioners, municipal leaders, students, insurance companies and motorcycle riders is urging Governor Jennifer Granholm to veto legislation that would repeal Michigan's 37-year-old mandatory motorcycle helmet law.

The Heads First Coalition is asking the governor to consider the impact a repeal would have on an already burdened health care system, insurance rates and a severely strapped state budget.

"Michigan's helmet law has saved countless lives over the years," said Michael Dabbs, Chair of the Michigan Heads First Coalition. "For 37 years, effective public policy, zero tolerance laws, mandatory safety belt laws and mandatory enforcement have saved many lives, reducing costs for all taxpayers. In every state that has enacted motorcycle helmet law repeals, helmet use has plummeted, resulting in many more deaths and injuries. From a medical standpoint alone, this repeal makes no sense whatsoever."

According to Dabbs, numerous studies and reports by universities and government agencies show the overwhelming benefits of helmets and helmet laws. Emergency room physicians corroborate study findings.

"It's disheartening to see patients who have not worn their helmets," said Dr. Earl Reissdoff, an emergency room physician at Ingham Regional Medical Center. "In a crash, they generally sustain severe head injuries. We can fix broken bones, but head, neck and brain injuries can leave you paralyzed, in a coma or dead."

Dr. Tom Reel, a board member of the Michigan Resource Center for Health and Safety (MRCHS), added, "Plain logic suggests that Michigan motorists and motorcycle riders are better off with our current helmet law. A small minority of riders seems to have influenced our legislators. It is the responsibility of the legislature to adopt laws that promote the health, safety and welfare of the public. The consequences of repealing this law will mean more deaths and injuries. This is the outcome that has been experienced by other states that have repealed their helmet law."

Medical practitioners and other coalition members are not the only group of concerned citizens who believe that a helmet repeal is bad policy.

A recent EPIC/MRA poll indicated some 70 percent of Michigan voters agree that motorcyclists should be required to wear helmets. This result is consistent with similar Michigan surveys taken in previous years.

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.

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. In Michigan, where a valid license is required for insurance coverage, that means the vast majority of this number are also uninsured.

"No matter how you spin this, a helmet law repeal represents, at best, blatant disregard for common sense; at worst, reckless endangerment of Michigan citizens," said Dabbs. "We've forewarned our elected representatives that people will die and their answer, apparently, is: 'Let them die.'"