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Support for Motorcycle Helmet Laws

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Media and Public Oppose Repeal of Helmet Laws

Varied Viewpoints Support Maintenance of Universal Motorcycle Helmet Laws

Much of the following emanated in response to the introduction of bills in 2011 to repeal Michigan's universal helmet law, with the hoped-for result that Governor Rick Snyder would exercise the same intelligent judgment that former Governor Jennifer Granholm did in vetoing similar legislation in June of 2006 and 2008.

Repealing the requirement that motorcyclists wear helmets would be costly to all Michigan families.
—Governor Jennifer Graholm
   in her veto letter to state officials June 23, 2006

Following the signing into law the repeal bill SB 291 by Snyder on Friday the 13th of April, 2012, and as other states nationwide faced threats or suffered the effects of efforts to weaken or repeal their own helmet laws, media outlets and individuals expressed their support for mandatory helmet laws and called for creating, retaining, or reinstating this lifesaving measure.

A Sampling of Editorial Boards Who Support Mandatory Helmet Laws

  • Star-Tribune: Wyo needs to restore motorcycle helmet law - May 15, 2007

    It's time for Wyoming lawmakers to bring back the state's mandatory motorcycle helmet law.

    The 2008 session will mark 25 years since the Legislature repealed the universal helmet law. Since 1983, only those 18 and under have been required to wear motorcycle helmets.

    National and state data from the past quarter-century show that many lives could be saved - and fewer serious accidents would occur - if helmets were mandatory for all ages.

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Viewpoints and Commentary Supporting Mandatory Helmet Laws

  • Snyder's motives in repealing motorcycle helmet law questionable - viewpoint by guest columnist Tom Watkins, former state mental health director, former state superintendent of schools, and currently a U.S./China consultant, posted July 29, 2012
  • Helmets make riding motorcycles safer - commentary by John Burns, posted July 20, 2012, by Cycle World, wherein Mr. Burns poses the question, "Is wearing a helmet a good idea when riding a motorcycle?" and answers it by saying, "Only if you value your life and would like it to continue"
  • Why rise in motorcycle deaths hasn't meant tough helmet laws - the video interview premiering June 19, 2012, of Rick Schmitt, a reporter for FairWarning (see below), by host Judy Woodruff, on PBS NewsHour, is introduced with the line, "More and more states are repealing and relaxing helmet laws, even as the death toll continues to rise from motorcycle accidents"
  • Despite Death Toll, Motorcycle Groups Strive to Muzzle U.S. Regulators - FairWarning, an online, nonprofit publication that seeks to provide robust, public interest journalism on issues of health, safety, and corporate conduct published a June 7, 2012, article that provides a historical overview of the politics of motorcyclist safety, inciting the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) and the Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF) to issue action alerts to their members and followers calling for comments in opposition to the contents of the article
  • Oakland Connection video interview - host Tim Burns talks with motorcycle accident lawyer Steven Gursten, from Michigan Auto Law, about no-fault insurance and the helmet law in Michigan
  • Detroit Free Press: Let motorcyclists go helmetless? No - reprint of October 1, 2009, guest commentary by SMARTER president Dan Petterson, Ed.D., on Motorcycle Helmets and Helmet Laws: An Issue That Should Not Need Debate
  • Wear a Motorcycle Helmet - Please? - a March 24, 2009, posting on Insurance.com that includes a Massachusetts federal court judge's response to the argument that wearing a helmet should be a personal choice because only the rider is harmed in an accident:

    The public has an interest in minimizing the resources directly involved. From the moment of injury, society picks the person up off the highway; delivers him to a municipal hospital and municipal doctors; provides him with unemployment compensation if, after recovery, he cannot replace his lost job; and, if the injury causes permanent disability, may assume responsibility for his and his family's subsistence. We do not understand a state of mind that permits plaintiff to think that only he himself is concerned.

  • Brain Dead: Why Are There No Mandatory Helmet Laws?
  • Health Watch: Non-bikers Bear Costs of Helmet-Free Motorcyclists' Head Injuries - June 20, 2008 Ann Arbor Business Review
  • Think Wearing a Helmet Makes You Look Stupid?
  • Mandatory Helmet Laws? Ask Tom. - a September 22, 1983, recounting by Ralph Nader of a personal encounter with a 27-year-old man who five years earlier had ridden his motorcycle without wearing a helmet and crashed

    Our country was doing the humane, sensible thing until 1976. By that year, 49 states and the District of Columbia had passed mandatory motorcycle helmet requirements for anyone traveling on public highways. A federal statute prodded this action by promising to subtract a small percentage of highway aid funds from non-complying states. In 1976 that federal stimulus was repealed. By 1980, 29 states had rescinded their helmet mandates. Fatal head injuries in motorcycle collisions and spills skyrocketed. There were 4800 motorcycle deaths in 1981 and many more riders totally and permanently disabled. The tragically accurate prediction is that there is a sudden increase in fatal or serious head injuries in states that revoke mandatory helmet use.
    —Ralph Nader

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Public Opinion in Favor of Mandatory Motorcycle Helmet Laws

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Concerned Individuals Sound Off in Support of Helmet Law

  • Motorcyclist Awareness Advocate Expresses Disappointment - this thought-provoking follow-up letter to Governor Snyder on April 20, 2012, by SMARTER member Eric Larson cites instances of lives saved by helmets and expresses the disappointment we share that "safety, awareness, education, and mandatory protective riding gear cannot all go hand in hand"

    I have been a staunch supporter of Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month each year during the month of May.… And it troubles me to think that safety, awareness, education, and mandatory protective riding gear cannot all go hand in hand.

  • A Letter to Lt. Gov. Brian Calley - an extensively well-documented November 8, 2011, letter by Injury Prevention Education Specialist  Karla Klas, BSN, RN, CCRP, of the University of Michigan Trauma Burn Center, succinctly sums up that "[h]elmets are indisputably proven to save costs and lives...." Klas, an avid street and off-road motorcyclist, was one of the authors of a 2002 U-M study that found riders who didn’t wear helmets incurred approximately $26,000 more in inpatient hospital and rehabilitation costs 
    • A Letter to Michigan State Representatives - Injury Prevention Education Specialist and avid motorcyclist Karla Klas, BSN, RN, CCRP, University of Michigan Trauma Burn Center, in a September 5, 2011, letter, submits compelling rationale for retaining Michigan's universal helmet law.

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