AUBURN HILLS, Michigan — The Traffic Improvement Association of Michigan (TIA) is disappointed by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s decision to give motorcyclists the option of wearing a helmet under legislation signed by the governor on Thursday.
“On behalf of the traffic safety community, I am saddened by Governor Snyder’s decision to sign a bill that is likely to result in increased deaths and economic costs,” said Jim Santilli, executive director of TIA. “As a Governor that is committed to using a dashboard to improve safety, I believe this is a step in the wrong direction.”
Senate Bill 291, sponsored by State Senator Phil Pavlov, lets motorcyclists choose whether to wear a helmet if they are at least 21 years old, carry additional insurance, and have passed a motorcycle safety course or have had their motorcycle endorsement for at least two years. Motorcycle passengers who want to exercise this option also must be 21 or older and carry additional insurance.
According to Santilli, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that in the three years after Florida repealed its helmet law in 2000, 933 motorcyclists were killed, an 81% increase. An additional study determined that fatalities grew by more than 50% in Kentucky, and 100% in Louisiana after those states struck down helmet laws.
“Helmets are estimated to be 37-percent effective in preventing fatal injuries to motorcycle riders and 41 percent for motorcycle passengers,” said Santilli. “In other words, for every 100 motorcycle riders killed in crashes while not wearing a helmet, 37 of them could have been saved had all 100 worn helmets.”
The Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning estimated that if Michigan’s helmet law were to be repealed, the state should expect to see an annual increase of at least 30 fatalities, 127 incapacitating injuries, and $129 million in economic costs.
NHTSA estimates that helmets saved the lives of 1,483 motorcyclists in 2009. If all motorcyclists had worn helmets, an additional 732 lives could have been saved.
“While traveling on Michigan’s roadways, I have personally come across several motorcycle crashes and have seen firsthand how a helmet can save a life,” said Santilli. “I urge all motorcyclists to continue to wear a helmet and drive sober, especially since you cannot predict the actions of another driver.”