OFF THE WIRE
Some lawmakers want helmet law repealed Bill sponsor: 'Our state needs that tourism' By PAIGE HOUPT Special to the Record-Eagle The Record Eagle Sun Oct 09, 2011, 07:14 AM EDT
LANSING — Some lawmakers hope that Michigan's motorcycle helmet law will be repealed under Gov. Rick Snyder.
And they're using the need to promote tourism as one of their arguments.
The Senate this year passed a bill that would allow people 21 and older to ride without a helmet if they have had a motorcycle endorsement for two or more years or pass a safety course and have a $100,000 health insurance policy.
Meanwhile, House lawmakers are considering a bill to allow those 21 and older to ride without a helmet if they have a $20,000 medical insurance policy.
Former Gov. Jennifer Granholm vetoed two similar bills in 2006 and 2008.
For 42 years, Michigan's law has required riders to wear an approved helmet when riding on public roads.
The House bill's sponsor, Rep. Peter Pettalia, R-Presque Isle, and bikers' rights advocates hope a new administration will change things.
"I believe the governor is going to repeal the current law under some restrictions," Pettalia said.
Snyder's office did not respond to requests for comment.
Pettalia is pushing tourism as one of his arguments.
"My concern is that motorists who are traveling through Indiana and Ohio, states that don't have helmet laws, and then they immediately skip riding through Michigan and move on to Wisconsin simply because they don't want to buy a helmet," Pettalia said.
"Our state needs that tourism."
Motorcycle rights advocate groups argue that 30 states don't require helmets.
A group called the American Bikers Aiming Toward Education said helmets should be a rider's choice, regardless of age and experience.
"Michigan is the only state surrounding the Great Lakes that still requires helmets," said Gerry Spomer, a group spokesman.
"With the current law we are preventing riders from out of state to visit and bring tourism to Michigan," he said. "We are losing millions on tourism every year."
Pro-helmet said a repeal would increase deaths and serious injuries and cost taxpayers in medical bills and increased insurance premiums.
Karla Klas, an injury prevention education specialist at the University of Michigan Trauma Burn Center, said helmets reduce medical expenses for taxpayers and families.
Klas authored a 2002 University of Michigan study that found that inpatient hospital and rehabilitation costs were about $26,000 more for patients who were helmetless when injured. The study did not include long-term rehabilitation costs or income loss, which can run into the millions.
Helmet use in Michigan saves $43 million for every 100,000 motorcycles registered in the state, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Across the country, helmet use saved roughly 1,829 lives and $2.9 billion in medical costs and lost earnings in 2008.
"As a nurse, I can tell you that it deeply saddens all of us when someone comes in with severe head trauma or dies despite our best efforts because of an injury that could have been prevented by wearing a helmet," Klas said.