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U-M study: Fatalities double for motorcyclists without helmets

While the purpose of traffic laws is to keep people on the roads safe, many of these laws receive a significant amount of opposition. For example, many motorcyclists in Michigan argue against a mandatory helmet law. In response to this opposition, Michigan repealed its universal helmet law several years ago. 

A new study by researchers at the University of Michigan found that this move had dire consequences. 

Spike in motorcycle fatalities and head injuries

For the past few years, the state of Michigan permitted motorcyclists who are 21 or older to ride a motorcycle without a helmet after repealing the universal helmet law. However, all motorcyclists who choose to ride without a helmet need to have $20,000 of accident insurance, according to the revised helmet law. According to a study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the University of Michigan, the fatality rate among riders without a helmet was double the fatality rate of riders with helmets. Jessica Cicchino, who is the IIHS vice president for research, noted that they saw a major increase in head injuries, which can have a significant impact on the victims and their families.

The data

The researched conducted by U-M and IIHS covered the 12 months immediately before and following April 2012, which is when the state of Michigan chose to repeal its mandatory helmet law.

The study focused on head-injury data as well as all police-reported deaths involving motorcycle crashes. During the two-year period for the study, there were more than 7,000 motorcycle riders who crashed. About 1,000 of these motorcyclists had to be hospitalized at a trauma center for their injuries.

According to the study, the number of motorcycle-related fatalities did not increase substantially in the two-year period for the study. However, over this period of time, the fatality rate among motorcyclists without helmets was 5.4 percent. On the other hand, the fatality rate of motorcyclists with helmets was just 2.8 percent. Essentially, the fatality rate for un-helmeted motorcyclists was double the fatality rate for helmeted motorcyclists in the state of Michigan.

After the repeal of the universal helmet law, the percentage of patients of trauma centers with head injuries increased 14 percent. While these patients were 17 percent less likely to have concussion-related injuries, 38 percent more of these patients had skull fractures.

Some advocates for the revision of the universal law argued that such a move would increase tourism. If the repeal of the universal helmet law truly did boost tourism, the visiting motorcyclists aren't getting into many accidents. According to the study conducted by the U-M and the IIHS, 95 percent of the bikes involved in motorcycle crashes were registered in Michigan.

Strong opinions on both sides

Many bikers have strong feelings about needing a helmet (or not). Yet undoubtedly, the repeal of the universal helmet law led to a major rise in fatalities and injuries related to motorcycle crashes. If you or a loved one was injured or killed in a motorcycle accident, don't hesitate to contact an attorney to plan your next steps.

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