With one of the longest and hottest riding seasons on record, higher gas prices and a slight increase in motorcycles registrations, 2012 saw a small increase in motorcycle fatalities with over half of those being fatalities being riders not endorsed to operate a motorcycle. The year also saw an increase in motorcycle tourism since the enactment of the rider choice law on April 12, 2013 allowing adults to choose whether or not they want to wear a helmet.
Recently, reports from the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning (OHSP) analyzing the fatality and fatality rate increases since the helmet choice law went into effect have been presented in an erroneous and biased manner.
“Our primary concern about the accuracy of the data from OHSP is that two single points of data are being compared, when an multi-year comparison will give the clearest and most accurate depiction of motorcycle fatalities,” said Vince Piacenti, Statistician, for ABATE Michigan. “The average fatality rate on motorcycles from 2005 – 2011 is 119.7 with a standard deviation of 8.4 (+/- 3% to make statistically significant). This means that the normal year-to-year fatality rate can vary from 95 to 145. Anything within this range is normal variation; the fatalities would have to be above 145 or below 95 to make a statement with statistical confidence. Fatalities in 2012 were 129, which fall within the normal range of variation and proves conclusively that the helmet-law amendment has had no adverse effect on motorcycle safety.”
What should concern the Michigan State Police, OSHP and the public is the fact that more than half of the fatalities involved riders NOT endorsed to drive a motorcycle.
“Losing a member of our motorcycle family is devastating. To know that a death could be prevented from motorcycle education and increased enforcement from State Police is unimaginable. Our mission at American Bikers Aiming Toward Education, or ABATE Michigan, as we approach Motorcycle Safety Awareness month in May is motorcycle safety. ABATE encourages the Michigan State Police to be proactive this coming riding season by focusing on car driver/motorcyclists awareness and motorcycle education,“ added Vince Consiglio, President, ABATE of Michigan. “But we also want to make sure those that ride without an endorsement face stiffer fines and we also support limiting Temporary Instructional Permits (TIP) to two per adult. If you need more than two TIPs, you shouldn’t be riding.”
Because more than half of Michigan motorcycle fatalities are unlicensed—or unendorsed— motorcyclists, ABATE’s goal in teaching motorcycle rider education classes and going into the drivers’ education classrooms is to ensure that everyone arrives home safely.
“A motorcyclists has a responsibility to know how to handle his or her bike,” Consiglio added. “However, a motorcyclist is much more vulnerable than a passenger vehicle occupant in the event of a crash. The majority of Michigan 2012 fatalities were wearing helmets.”
A motorcycle endorsement on a driver’s license is required by law to ride on public roads and can be obtained by attending and passing a motorcycle rider education class, which are available statewide for a fee. A list of Secretary of State approved Michigan Motorcycle Safety Program instructors, along with their locations and contact information can be found the Secretary of State’s website. ABATE Michigan supports public and private rider education. A current list of ABATE Michigan motorcycle rider education classes locations and times can be found on ABATE Michigan’s website.
On April 12, 2012 the requirement for motorcycle helmets was amended to allow adult choice for motorcyclists 21 and older, providing they completed an accredited motorcycle-safety course or had a minimum of 2 years riding experience.
“Our members have reported an increase in motorcycle tourism since the enactment of the rider choice law,” said Scott Ellis, Executive Director of the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association, which represents more than 1,800 restaurant, bar, party store, hotel, and casino establishments across the state. “From Monroe to Muskegon to the Keweenaw Peninsula, more out-of-state motorcyclists are stopping, staying and spending money at our restaurants, hotels and attractions.”
At least 20 different state license plates were counted on motorcycles at last year’s sixth annual Muskegon Bike Time. With the increase in participants, planners are already concerned how many bikes and vendors can fit in the downtown area for this year’s event.
ABATE is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the overall rights and promoting the safe operating practices of all Michigan motorcyclists.
ABATE Michigan has partnered with public schools and private driving instructors to teach more than 75,000 new drivers about motorcycle awareness, using resources donated by ABATE members.