Thursday, June 9, 2016

Michigan Motorcycle Deaths Soar After Helmet Law Repeal: Study

Deaths among motorcyclists without helmets increased 460 percent from 2011 to 2015, according to Insurance Institute of Michigan analysis.

In the years since Michigan motorcycle riders unstrapped their headgear with the 2012 repeal of the mandatory helmet law, deaths have soared 460 percent among those who eschewed the safety precaution.

All motorcycle deaths, including those of riders who wore helmets, have increased 26 percent since the repeal, to 138 in 2015, compared with 109 in 2011, according to the Insurance Institute of Michigan, which released its analysis on Tuesday.

Also from the study:

In the three years prior to the motorcycle helmet repeal, an average of 114 people were killed each year in Michigan motorcycle crashes. In the three full years since the repeal, an average of 124 motorcyclists died each year on Michigan roads.

“We knew from other states’ experiences that deaths increase when motorcyclists are allowed to ride without helmets,” Pete Kuhnmuench, the group’s executive director, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the predictions were accurate and more motorcyclists are dying in motorcycle crashes.”

Michigan saw an increase in all motor vehicle crashes in 2015, but the 6 percent increase in motorcycle crashes has a greater effect in Michigan on other motorists’ insurance than in other states.

That’s because motorcyclists are exempt from a state law that requires drivers to maintain personal injury protection coverage, which includes state-mandated unlimited, lifetime medical coverage. Motorcyclists are not required to buy this coverage, but if they are injured in a crash with a car, they claim against the car’s driver for their injuries.

Motorcycle crashes also account for a disproportionate share of money paid out of the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association, the fund which pays for auto insurance catastrophic injuries and is spread among every auto insurance policy in the state, the insurance group said.

Although motorcyclists represent 1.7 percent of the assessments paid into the MCCA, they account for 6.7 percent of all claims reported.

“The consequences of a person’s decision not to wear a helmet is borne by all of society through higher insurance premiums, lost productivity and increased health care costs,” Kuhnmuench said.

Currently, most U.S. states have motorcyclist helmet laws, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Governors Highway Safety Administration. Only three others — Illinois, Iowa and New Hampshire — have no helmet law.

Not all of the nation’s 47 state helmet laws are universal, though; 28 of them, as well as Guam, require helmets for specific riders.

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