Mlive.com is running a series of interesting articles online this week about the new motorcycle helmet law and its affect on riders, their families and the costs/benefits to society at large.
Six months ago, Governor Snyder signed a new helmet law that allows motorcycle riders the choice to use a helmet when riding. For the past 35 years, motorcyclists were required by law to wear a protective helmet when riding on a motorcycle. The original law was instituted to cut down on death and serious injury for riders, but advocates for the new law believe it should be an individual rider’s choice to wear a helmet.
The helmet law was controversial when it passed. I spoke out against it, believing the benefits to the individual rider were far outweighed by the costs to society, including higher medical costs and an even greater financial burden on taxpayer funded mandates such as Medicare and Medicaid.
Well, six months later the numbers bear out some interesting and tragic results. Looking at police report data before the state instituted the new helmet law, and the six months since, Mlive.com discovered a number of things.
In the past six months alone, 75 motorcyclists without a helmet have been killed or seriously injured on Michigan’s roadways. Further, cyclists without helmets were 43% more likely to suffer “incapacitating” injuries and were three times more likely to be killed.
Additionally, according to the article “they were more likely to be at fault. In fact, motorcyclists involved in crashes without helmets were 22% more likely to be at fault than those with helmets. And many were not licensed to be on motorcycles in the first place – a problem that includes riders with helmets.”
Now the investigation did find that 75% of motorcyclists involved in accidents since the new law passed wore helmets. According to the article, some observers thought that number would be closer to 50%. However, in my opinion, that number of accident victims who wore helmets is actually smaller than I thought it would be when the new law passed.
To me, it demonstrates that too many motorcyclists are leaving their helmets at home when riding.
Proponents of the new law won’t be happy with these articles. One advocate of the new law says the statistics cited in the article are skewed and fail to demonstrate what injuries are occurring in the crash, how the accidents occur in the first place and whether wearing a helmet matters or not.
In my opinion, this argument ignores the statistical data compiled over the past six months. Motorcycle accident are dangerous enough. They are much worse when the operator or passenger choose not to wear a helmet. In fact, according to research compiled in 18 other states, un-helmeted motorcyclists treated at hospitals suffered nearly twice the percentage of head and face injuries when compared to helmeted riders.
The injuries were also more severe, often involving traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injuries.
This means the injuries sustained to un-helmeted riders on average will be more expensive to treat. The new law does require that riders purchase $20,000 worth of medical insurance, or PIP insurance. It also mandates that riders pass a motorcycle course or have been endorsed to ride for two years. But many riders ignore the insurance and safety course requirements.
Instead, society at large gets caught holding the bag, or in this case, the medical bills for what can be lifetime medical care. To me, this is not a fair bargain – both for other motorists and Michigan taxpayers.