Safer or Not Without Helmets?

Lori Conarton works for the Insurance Institute of Michigan, an organization that fought to keep helmets required.

"The Office of Highway Safety Planning did an analysis before repeal and they estimate there will be 30 additional deaths and 127 additional incapacitating injuries," said Lori Conarton, Communications Director for the Insurance Institute of Michigan.

According to the Office of Highway Safety Planning, this year there are 91 deaths compared to 89 during the same period last year. Incapacitating injuries however are up by 14 percent, with 63 more cases then last year. The Office of Highway Safety Planning declined News Ten's request for an interview. A spokesperson said the data from this year is too provisional, it changes daily, and that it's too early to draw conclusions.

Noel LaPorte said giving adults the option to bike without helmets actually reduces the number of fatalities. He works for the biker's organization that wanted adults to have the option to ride without a helmet, ABATE-- The American Bikers Aiming Toward Education. He says this year there are almost 5,000 more registered motorcyclists and yet fatalities have not increased as insurance companies projected.

"I think this makes the numbers even more relevant because we had increased registrations, a lot more traffic, and negligible change in fatalities," said Noel LaPorte, a consultant for ABATE. "Of the 30 states that have repealed that law, the fatality rates are actually lower in those state than they are with a mandatory helmet law."

LaPorte says that's because riders are more cautious when they don't have a helmet.

"I'm the first one to admit it. It's sort of counter intuitive. We are all raised that you have to wear a helmet, but the reality is motorcycling is inherently dangerous," said LaPorte. "They are better riders when they don't have this sort of restrictive equipment."

He said the numbers won't increase this year or ever, and that this years numbers are even more telling because it was a record year for biking.

"This in a season where we had record setting temperatures and probably the best biking season in Michigan that we've ever had," said LaPorte.

Conarton disagrees, and saying the numbers have already risen.

"People are going to see the beautiful state of Michigan whether they can wear their helmet or not. It's a beautiful state and we have lots to see, so we don't think that the increase in tourism is worth the lives lost," said Conarton. "Just because motorcyclists can ride without their helmet doesn't mean they should. So we recommend they still wear all their protective gear."

In order to ride legally without a helmet, bikers need to be at least 21 or have passed a motorcycle safety course--- and have additional insurance.

It will be another six months till a strong conclusion on motorcycle safety can be made, without opposition.


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