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Michigan Senate Committee Votes in Favor of 'Opt-Out' Option for State's Helmet Law; AAA Says Deaths and Injuries Will Increase

DEARBORN, Mich., Oct. 17 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The State Senate Committee passed legislation today (October 17) that would enable motorcyclists to ride without their helmets on Michigan roads. In their latest bid to rid riders of their helmets, special interest groups in Lansing have proposed an 'opt-out' solution. For a $100 fee, motorcyclists can buy their way out of a helmet.

The bill is expected to be voted on by the State Senate in the near future. The bill was passed by the State House on Oct. 11.

American Bikers Aiming Toward Education (ABATE) conceived the bill, which would require riders to be 21 years or older, licensed to operate a motorcycle for at least two years, complete a motorcycle safety course and have insurance or security of $20,000 for first-party medical benefits in the event of an accident.

According to Jack Peet, manager of community safety services for AAA Michigan, the legislation would result in 22 additional motorcycle fatalities each year, along with 132 more incapacitating injuries, 610 other injuries and $140 million in added economic costs to Michigan citizens.

"If the mandatory helmet requirement is repealed or waived through a fee, there will be a significant increase in severe head injuries and deaths," said Peet. "Studies show that in a crash, unhelmeted motorcyclists are three times more likely than helmeted cyclists to suffer traumatic brain injuries."

Motorcycle crashes account for a disproportionate share of money paid out of the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association (MCCA), a fund which is supported by a surcharge on every auto insurance policy in this state. Although motorcyclists represent 1.7 percent of the assessments paid into the MCCA, they account for 6.7 percent of all claims reported.

In addition to increased medical costs passed on to taxpayers, Motorcycle deaths and injuries are on the rise after the repeal of mandatory helmet laws in Florida, Kentucky and Louisiana. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that in the three years after Florida's repeal of its mandatory helmet law in 2000, 933 motorcyclists were killed, an 81 percent increase.

Another study found that fatalities grew by more than 50 percent in Kentucky and 100 percent in Louisiana after those states struck down mandatory helmet laws. Because of increased injuries and deaths, Louisiana legislators reinstated the motorcycle helmet requirement.

In Florida after the helmet law was repealed, the cost of hospital care for motorcycle injuries grew from $21 million to $44 million in the 30 months after the law changed.

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