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Growing Trend Toward Repeal of Motorcycle Laws: At What Cost?

May 12, 2011

Those who ride motorcycles are particularly vulnerable in serious motor vehicle accidents. The staggering number of serious head injuries suffered by those who ride motorcycles led many states to pass mandatory helmet laws.

Many of these helmet laws have been on the books for decades. However, there is now growing movement in many states to repeal motorcycle helmet laws. At Montlick and Associates, Attorneys at Law, we have been representing the victims of serious Georgia motorcycle accidents for over 37 years. We have seen the devastating impact of motorcycle accidents in Atlanta and throughout Georgia and the number of lives that have been saved by motorcycle helmets. These catastrophic motorcycle accidents not only lead to tragedy for the accident victims, but also their families that frequently lose a loved one and financial breadwinner.

The state of Michigan is currently introducing legislation in their state legislature, which would repeal Michigan's almost 40 year-old motorcycle helmet law. It is strange that 81% of the state's residents supported the mandatory law when polled and only 16% said helmets should not be required to protect riders in serious motorcycle accidents. The Office of Highway Safety Planning has already estimated that repealing the law in Michigan would lead to 30 more fatalities a year in addition to 127 more incapacitating injuries a year. This would probably end up costing the state's residents a staggering $129 million in additional medical costs.

In other states where they have repealed mandatory helmet laws, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has reported a significant increase in the number of fatalities. Fatalities grew by 81% in Florida, 50% in Kentucky, and 100% in Louisiana.

The cost of this freedom to motorcyclists comes at a disproportionate cost to other insured motorist's in the state. The state actually has a fund called the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association (MCCA) that is funded by a surcharge assessed on every insurance policy in the state. While about 2 percent of the funds paid into this program are paid by motorcyclists, they represent 7.3 percent of the total claims. Motorcyclists also account for 5 percent of the money that is paid out of the fund.

The other imbalance associated with the repeal of motorcycle helmet laws comes in the area of insurance costs. One proposed bill in Michigan would allow motorcyclists who are over 21 to ride without a helmet if they have $20,000 in health insurance. The Michigan AAA Traffic Safety Manager argues that $20,000 would not even come close to covering the medical costs that result in these types of accidents.

The value of motorcycle helmets in saving lives should not be underestimated. While only 3 percent of registered passenger vehicles are motorcycles, motorcycle fatalities represent about 9 percent of all passenger vehicles. This number somewhat understates the risk because there is typically only a single rider on a motorcycle who may be killed in a crash whereas a passenger vehicle accident may expose many occupants to fatality risks. The NHTSA has estimated that motorcycle helmets are 37 percent effective in preventing fatalities. There has recently been a decline in the use of helmets from a 71 percent usage rate in 2000 to only a 58 percent usage rate in 2002.

Many lives are saved due to motorcycle helmet use. The leading cause of death in motorcycle crashes is head injuries. When there are no helmet laws in place in a state, there are significantly fewer motorcyclists who use a helmet. In 2009, 97 percent of riders who road in states with helmet laws wore helmets compared to only 63 percent in states that had no mandatory helmet laws. In a crash, motorcyclists without a helmet are three times more likely than helmeted riders to suffer traumatic brain injuries.

If you or anyone you love is involved in an accident involving a motorcycle you should contact our experienced Georgia motorcycle attorneys who can evaluate and investigate your case. You may be eligible to receive compensation for your medical costs, lost wages, and any pain and suffering as well as other damages and loss.

Montlick and Associates, Attorneys at Law, is committed to providing the people of Georgia with information designed to prevent motor vehicle accident injuries and fatalities. Sadly, Georgia motorcycle accidents are sometimes unavoidable, but if you or someone you love suffers serious injury or wrongful death in a Georgia motorcycle accident, Montlick and Associates is prepared to fight for your rights so that you can obtain fair compensation.

Our experienced Georgia motorcycle accident lawyers are available to assist clients throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state. No matter where you are located, we are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.

Category: Auto Accidents

Please Note:
Many of our blog articles discuss the law. All information provided about the law is very general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Every situation is different, and should be analyzed by a lawyer who can provide individualized advice based on the facts involved in your unique situation, and a consideration of all of the nuances of the statutes and case law that apply at the time.