Michigan Motorcycle Injury Costs Rise 34%
Back in April 2012, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder repealed the state’s helmet law, after a fight that lasted for well over a decade. Most motorcyclists agree passionately that wearing a helmet should be optional, rather than a legal requirement – so in many ways this is a real victory. However, a follow-up study has shown that since the change, the average insurance payout after a motorcycle injury claim has risen from $5,410 to $7,257 – an increase of 34%. While this doesn’t change the fact that using a helmet should be down to freedom of choice, it does highlight how important that decision is for each individual motorcyclist.
While there is no way right now of knowing exactly how many motorcyclists in Michigan actually wear helmets, the percentage wearing a helmet when they crash has dropped significantly since the helmet law was repealed. Prior to April 2012, 98% of motorcyclists who crashed wore helmets, but this figure dropped to 74% after the legislative change. This is consistent with what has been seen in other states when helmet laws are repealed. According to ConsumerReports.org, 98% of riders in states with helmet laws wear helmets, whereas only 48% do so in states where there is no legislation.
The number of states without helmet laws has been rising steadily since 1976. At that time, states managed to lobby Congress successfully to stop the DoT from imposing severe financial penalties on states that didn’t have helmet laws. In large part, this increase has been due to pressure from motorcycle advocacy groups. Right now, only 19 states have strict helmet laws, whereas 17 have limited ones, and 3 have no laws at all. For example, if you live in Connecticut, you have been able to ride your motorcycle without a helmet since 1976, provided that you are 18 or older. In fact, the state has a free-spirited attitude toward mandatory traffic safety laws in general – in the same way that Connecticut motorcyclists don’t need to wear helmets, drivers who buy new cars in Connecticut don’t need to wear seat belts.
While obviously we should all support freedom of choice when it comes to wearing helmets, you also should remember that getting rid of a helmet law doesn’t make wearing a helmet illegal – it just removes the mandatory requirement. If you want to let your hair flow free in the wind, that’s great, but you shouldn’t feel pressured into doing it either. Freedom of choice works both ways.
Before you make your decision, you need to be acquainted with the facts. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration – not the insurance industry – motorcyclists who don’t wear a helmet are 3 times more likely to suffer a brain injury when they crash when compared to those who do wear a helmet. Not only that, they are likely to sustain more severe injuries – in fact, the average cost of medical treatment for riders who crash without helmets is 1/3 more than the cost for helmeted motorcyclists.