Michigan motorcycle deaths rose 23% in 2015
Washington — Motorcycle deaths in Michigan jumped 23 percent last year, according to a study released Thursday by the Governors Highway Safety Association.
The Washington, D.C-based group said there were 138 motorcycle deaths in Michigan in 2015, compared to 112 fatalities in 2014.
The group said the increase was part of a 10 percent jump in motorcycle deaths nationwide in 2015, which saw 5,010 motorcycle fatalities, compared to 4,548 in 2014.
The organization blamed the increase in motorcycle deaths in Michigan in part on the repeal of a state law that required helmets for all riders in 2012.
“In Michigan, which saw a 23 percent increase in motorcyclist fatalities, state highway safety officials noted the repeal of Michigan’s all-rider helmet law in 2012 has been a factor in a portion of the increase in fatalities to motorcyclists, due to fewer riders wearing helmets, which decreases the chances of surviving a crash,” the group said.
Kendall Wingrove, a spokesman for the Michigan State Police and Office of Highway Safety Planning, said 56 of the 138 who died in motorcycle accidents last year were not wearing helmets, while 74 of the riders who perished were wearing them. He said the helmet status of eight of the riders who were involved in fatal accidents in 2015 could not be determined.
Michigan officials have framed the repeal of the helmet requirement as a move to allow motorcycles riders and passengers to choose for themselves whether they think it is appropriate to wear them.
“Michigan law now allows motorcyclists to decide for themselves, if certain conditions are met, whether or not to wear a helmet,” Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson says in a post on her department’s website.
Motorcycle riders and passengers have to be at least 21 years old and have at least $20,000 worth of first-party medical benefits on their car insurance.
The safety association said Thursday that Michigan was one of 31 states that had increases in motorcycle deaths in 2015.
The group said “motorcycling is a risky form of transportation, especially when combined with factors such as lack of helmet use, speeding, alcohol, and invalid licensure.”
The report went on to point out: “Motorcyclists are susceptible to serious injury in collisions with larger motor vehicles, which are prone to violate motorcyclists’ right of way because of the smaller visual target they present.”
The group said that even in states with helmet use laws, not all specify that helmets must meet federal safety standards.