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Interviews with news makers and discussion of topics important to Southwest Michigan. Subscribe to the podcast through Apple itunes and Google. Segments of interview are heard in WestSouthwest Brief during Morning Edition and All Things Considered

WSW: Fewer Helmets, More Deaths On Motorcycles In Michigan

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Ian Griffiths/Wikimedia Commons
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It’s been four years since Governor Rick Snyder signed legislation repealing the law requiring motorcycle riders in Michigan to wear a helmet. Bridge has examined the impact of the law. 

Ted Roelofs wrote the article called Live Free and Die: Michigan’s Motorcycle Helmet Law Four Years Later. Roelofs says helmet use plummeted after the repeal. He says the statistics also show that deaths related to motorcycle crashes have increased.

Butterworth hospital did a detailed study that found a strong correlation between people not wearing helmets and deaths, more severe injuries, lengthier hospital stays and longer times on a ventilator. Roelofs interviewed the co-author of study, a trauma surgeon at Butterworth. He reported more severe injuries right after the helmet law was repealed.

The results in Michigan are similar to what has been found in across nation, in other states. Roelofs says the debate over requiring people to wear a motorcycle helmet is highly political. Twice the Legislature passed a repeal when Jennifer Granhom was governor, she vetoed it both times. Governor Snyder signed it into law in 2010. Roelofs the issue ends up getting fused with the idea of personal freedom and patriotism, with many riders putting American Flags on their motorcycles at rallies against requiring a helmet.

The group that advocates allowing motorcyclists to ride without a helmet isn’t persuaded by the studies showing increased risk and higher health care costs. Roelofs talked with a representative from ABATE (American Bikers Aiming Toward Education) Jim Rhodes said you can’t trust doctors or hospitals because they’re biased in favor of requiring helmets. Roelofs says the group doesn’t believe any evidence that shows that riding a motorcycle without a helmet is more dangerous.

And it appears that ABATE is winning the political debate, at least for now. Roelofs says even the groups that want the helmet law reinstated don’t believe a change is going to happen anytime soon. Legislation has been introduced to again require motorcycle riders wear helmets, but it isn’t going to get a hearing.

Roelofs says it will likely require a change in state government to bring the mandatory helmet law back.

“there’s not a whole lot in it, or almost nothing in it”

for a Republican lawmaker to consider bringing back the mandatory helmet law.

Image from Wikimedia Commons

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Gordon Evans became WMUK's Content Director in 2019 after more than 20 years as an anchor, host and reporter. A 1990 graduate of Michigan State, he began work at WMUK in 1996.
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