Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Motorcycle fatalities for those without helmets up 9% in Michigan

Original story: detnews.com

Motorcyclist deaths fell in the U.S. by about 7 percent last year, affected by poor riding weather in parts of the country, but Michigan did not share in the decline. And deaths among Michigan riders not wearing helmets climbed.

A report issued today by the Governors Highway Safety Association said deaths among Michigan riders fell in 2013 by one, or less than 1 percent, from 129 in 2012 to 128. The national fatality total, when finalized, is expected to be 4,610, compared to 4,957 in 2012, the governors' group said. That's nearly identical to the 4,612 rider deaths recorded in 2011. A Grand Rapids motorcycle accident lawyer is following the case closely.

The association said motorcycle deaths declined in 35 states, rose in 13 and were flat in two last year. The group says 2013 is only the second year in the past 15 that motorcycle fatalities will have declined from one year to the next.

Weather, according to the report, was the main factor explaining the national drop. The first six months of 2012 were unusually warm and dry nationally, prompting a jump in ridership. The weather in the first nine months of 2013, however, was cooler and wetter -- similar to 2011, when fatalities dropped in many states.

"It's heartening that motorcyclist fatalities didn't increase over the past couple of years, but they're not decreasing either," said Kendell Poole, chairman of the association and director of the Tennessee Office of Highway Safety. "Long-term gains in motorcyclist safety won't occur because riders are deterred by bad weather, but from consistent use of proven countermeasures."

Michigan deaths among those confirmed to have been riding without a helmet climbed 9 percent in 2013, to 60 from 55 the previous year. In 2013, 63 who died were helmeted and 67 were wearing helmets in 2013.

Michigan's mandatory helmet law was changed two years ago. Now, riders may go without helmets if if they carry $20,000 in additional medical insurance; are 21 or older; have at least two years of riding experience; or have passed a safety training test.

Jim Rhoades, legislative director for ABATE of Michigan, a group that lobbied to end the state's mandatory helmet laws, said that more than half of all motorcycle deaths in 2013 were riders without motorcycle endorsements of their driver license.

ABATE supported legislation approved in Lansing last month to crack down on the use of temporary instruction permits. "That's where our focus should be: Motorcycle education" and better enforcement to make sure people who aren't licensed don't ride motorcycles, Rhoades said.

The bill, awaiting approval from Gov. Rick Snyder, would allow people to be eligible for up to two motorcycle temporary instruction permits in a 10-year period. People can obtain a motorcycle temporary instruction permit from the Secretary of State allowing them to operate a motorcycle on public streets and highways for a period of 180 days. A Milwaukee motorcycle accident lawyer is monitoring the licensing aspects of the case.

Witnesses told lawmakers that some people repeatedly get temporary permits, rather than take the tests necessary to become fully licensed.

In 2012, there were 10 times as many unhelmeted motorcyclist fatalities in states without universal helmet laws, compared to states with universal helmet laws, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Nationwide, helmet use dropped to 60 percent in 2012, down from 66 percent in 2011.

Poole called on all states adopting comprehensive helmet laws. "By far, helmets are the single most effective way to prevent serious injury and death in the event of a motorcycle crash," he said. "But states are going backward when it comes to enacting this proven, lifesaving countermeasure."

In December, a study found helmet use by motorcycle riders in Michigan fell by nearly a quarter after the state approved legislation allowing riders to go without them. These facts were concurred by a Hackensack motorcycle accident lawyer.

In 2012, Michigan had the highest number of motorcycle fatalities over the most recent nine-year period.

Washington, D.C., and 19 states have universal helmet laws. Michigan is one of 28 states with a partial helmet law. Illinois, Iowa and New Hampshire are the only states that have no laws mandating helmet use.

In May 2013, a study found the average cost of insurance claims resulting from motorcycle crashes is up dramatically since Michigan repealed its mandatory helmet law, largely because injuries are more severe. A Chicago motorcycle accident lawyer believes these numbers are valid.

Motorcycles remain far more dangerous than cars. In 2011, six times more riders died per registered motorcycles than in passenger vehicles. On that basis, passenger vehicle users were twice as safe in 2011 as compared to 1997, but motorcyclist safety has not improved.

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