Tuesday, June 10, 2008

AIA Asks Granholm to Veto Motorcycle Helmet Repeal Bill

The American Insurance Association today urged Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) to veto legislation that would effectively repeal the state’s 39-year old, life-saving all-rider motorcycle helmet law.

House Bill 4749 would make wearing a motorcycle helmet optional for those 21 and over if they purchase a “special permit” for a nominal yearly fee. Such a change in law would exact a terrible toll on all Michigan’s citizens in lost lives, more severe crash related injuries and increased medical costs.

“We hope Gov. Granholm will once again veto this short-sighted legislation, as she has so courageously done before, to help save lives and keep those traveling on Michigan’s roadways safer,” said David Snyder, AIA vice president and assistant general counsel. “This is not, as supporters claim, a case of personal freedom, but one of traffic safety impacting the life and health of all Michigan residents who must pay when tragedy occurs.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that motorcycle helmets reduce the likelihood of a crash fatality by 37 percent and that a helmet is highly effective in preventing brain injuries, which often require extensive treatment and may result in lifelong disability. Un-helmeted motorcyclists involved in a crash are three times more likely to suffer traumatic brain injuries than helmeted riders.[1]

Last year in Michigan, there were 3,723 motorcycle-related crashes, resulting in 124 deaths and 3,188 injuries. Additionally, motorcycle crashes account for 6.7 percent of all claims reported to the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Assoc. (MCCA) even though motorcyclists represent only 1.7 percent of the MCCA’s paid assessments.[2] The MCCA is a mechanism to pay for catastrophic claims that is funded by a surcharge on every auto insurance policy in this state.

“Helmet laws do not restrict travel choices and do not infringe on the ability to ride motorcycles,” stated Snyder. “Helmet laws only require that when you ride a motorcycle you take a few necessary precautions – just like wearing seatbelts in cars. Where the laws have been repealed, helmet use drops by nearly 50 percent, and deaths, serious injuries and related economic losses multiply."

The property/casualty industry in Michigan employed more than 15,000 and paid more than $219.5 million in premium taxes alone in 2006. Additionally, insurers are a major source of capital for governmental bodies in the state. According to analysis of A.M. Best data, they held $10.7 billion in Michigan municipal bonds in 2005 – approximately 19% of the outstanding state and local government debt in the state.

[1] National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 2007. Traffic safety facts, 2006: motorcycle helmet use laws. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation

[2] Insurance Institute of Michigan, IIM Pulse, Vol. 6, Num. 18, June 6, 2008

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