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There are better safety strategies, and state could benefit in tourism

October 6, 2009

It’s time to modify Michigan’s mandatory helmet law for adult choice. Doing so would not increase fatality rates and injuries, nor increase insurance costs, as pro-helmet law advocates would lead the public to believe. 

In addition, modifying our helmet law would bring in an estimated $1.2 billion to the state’s economy through increased tourism, increased tax revenue, and new motorcycle-related business.

HB4747, sponsored by state Rep. Richard LeBlanc, D-Westland, would modernize the present helmet law and bring it in line with all of the other Great Lakes states, which allow adult choice for helmet use, and the 30 states that have modified their mandatory helmet laws.

An objective review of all available data raises many questions about the effectiveness of mandatory helmet laws. This is backed by data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and other state and federal agencies.

Fatality rates are actually lower in states that have modified their helmet laws. According to NHTSA data, fatality rates over the last 25 years have been virtually the same for freedom-of-choice states versus mandatory helmet law states. Motorcycle fatality rates declined nationally by more than 60% from 1980-95 across the board.

There is no significant difference in fatality rates between states requiring and not requiring helmet usage, according to one of the studies.

No state in the nation has increased its insurance when it modified its helmet law for adult choice, and, more important, no state has decreased insurance rates when a new helmet law has been enacted.

Education of both the motorcycle rider and the car driver is the rational way to reduce motorcycle fatalities. Helmet laws do not prevent accidents, nor do they make for a safer motorcycle rider.

Michigan presently has a motorcyclist-funded safety program. This state requires that all motorcyclists have an endorsement on their license to operate a motorcycle. Still, almost half of the motorcycle rider fatalities were not endorsed, which means that they didn’t have the proper riding skills. Education is the alternative that saves lives.

There will be no increased fatalities, insurance rates will not go up, there will not be dead bikers stacked along the highways, plus we will see a great economic benefit.

Jim Rhoades is legislative director of ABATE (American Bikers Aiming Toward Education) of Michigan.–and-state-could-benefit-in-tourism


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