Repeal Efforts For Motorcycle Helmet Laws Misguided

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National motorcycle accident lawyer Steven M. Gursten explains why laws that allow motorcyclists to ride without helmets will increase serious injuries and fatalities — and financially burden taxpayers.

This bill makes absolutely no sense... it guarantees that more motorcycle riders will be hurt or even killed. Next, it shifts the financial burden of paying for these injured bikers' medical care to the taxpayers and Medicaid.

Michigan is one of a number of states with efforts underway to repeal motorcycle helmet laws. Recently, the Michigan Senate passed a bill (HB 4747) aiming to repeal the state's motorcycle helmet law. Approved on a 24-14 vote, the bill will go to the Republican-led house, where it is expected to pass.

If HB 4747 passes, motorcyclists in Michigan who are 21 years old and over would not be required to wear a helmet, as long as they purchase a minimum of $100,000 in No-Fault insurance (PIP) coverage for medical benefits in case of motorcycle accident.

Steven M. Gursten, motorcycle accident lawyer and head of Michigan Auto Law, says HB 4747 has dire consequences.

"This bill makes absolutely no sense. It doesn't protect motorcyclists who will be seriously injured when motorcycle accidents inevitably occur. Instead, it guarantees that more motorcycle riders will be hurt or even killed. Next, it shifts the financial burden of paying for these injured bikers' medical care to the taxpayers and Medicaid," Gursten said, adding that $100,000 is far too little coverage for the medical expenses most motorcycle crash victims require.

"For the catastrophic personal type of injuries, such as traumatic brain injuries and spinal cord injuries that are usually sustained by a rider in a motorcycle crash without a helmet, $100,000 in medical coverage can be exhausted in the first few days alone,” he noted.

Gursten has been interviewed by local and national media on helmet repeal efforts. Given a recent tragic story that clearly illustrates the need to keep the motorcycle helmet requirement in Michigan, CNN reported that a bareheaded motorcyclist participating in a ride to protest helmet laws was killed in a motorcycle accident.

"I'm still amazed by the gigantic leap of logic that motorcycle helmet repeal advocates have. The argument is that requiring bikers to wear a helmet infringes on their personal freedom and liberty," said Gursten. "But these "advocates" ignore that their “liberty” stops when others are then forced to pay their medical bills for catastrophic lifetime medical care. The costs of their “liberty” to not wear a helmet is shifted to the rest of us taxpayers, as the burden is shifted to Medicaid to pay for serious brain injuries that could have been prevented.”

Gursten is asking Michigan residents to contact their representatives and tell them that HB 4747 is a horrible idea.

Consider the statistics:

  •     45 percent of fatally injured motorcyclists were not wearing their motorcycle helmets. - U.S. Department of Transportation Plan to Reduce Motorcycle Fatalities (2005)
  •     Helmet use rates are lower in states that do not require all riders to use helmets: 68 percent of motorcyclists in states requiring helmets wore DOT-compliant helmets, compared to 37 percent in states not requiring all riders to use helmets. - U.S. Department of Transportation Plan to Reduce Motorcycle Fatalities (2005)
  •     Helmets are estimated to be 37 percent effective in preventing fatal injuries to motorcyclists. - NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts, Motorcycles, 2006

About Steven M. Gursten: Steven M. Gursten heads Michigan Auto Law and is recognized as one of the top motorcycle accident lawyers in the country. He received the highest motorcycle accident settlement in Michigan last year, according to Michigan Lawyers Weekly. Steve has spoken to trial lawyers across the country at seminars on motorcycle accident lawsuits, and is available for comment.

About Michigan Auto Law: Michigan Auto Law is a law firm with 18 attorneys exclusively handling auto accident, motorcycle lawsuits and No-Fault insurance litigation throughout the state. The firm has offices in Farmington Hills, Sterling Heights, Detroit, Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids. For more information or to speak with a motorcycle accident lawyer, call (800) 777-0028.

  • Photo courtesy of Creative Commons, by Mike Licht

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Natalie Lombardo
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