According to The Detroit News, a report published by the Governors Highway Safety Association (the GHSA) in May 2014 said that motorcycle deaths in the United States decreased by approximately 7 percent in 2013 compared to 2012. Unfortunately, the state of Michigan did not experience a similar decline, and deaths among Michigan motorcycle riders not wearing helmets increased.
Per the GHSA report, motorcycle deaths increased in 13 states, decreased in 35 states and remained unchanged in two states in 2013. In total, the number of national fatalities in 2013 is expected to be 4,610—almost identical to the 2011 total of 4,612. The 2012 total was 4,957.
Weather Could Be a Factor in Decrease Nationwide
2013 was just the second year in the past 15 years that motorcycle fatalities declined from year to year, and the GHSA report suggests that weather was the chief factor in that decline. The warm and dry weather in the first half of 2012 led to an increase in motorcycle ridership, while the cooler and wetter weather in 2011 and 2013 led to a decrease in motorcycle ridership. Other factors impacting the decline include the economy and gas prices, motorcycle registration and motorcycle training, and safety programs. The report also acknowledges that some special or unique situations may have affected motorcycle travel and fatalities in some states. Thus, the decline in fatalities is likely less encouraging than the numbers themselves indicate.
In Michigan, motorcycle fatalities fell from 129 in 2012 to 128 in 2013—a decrease of less than 1 percent. Deaths among riders confirmed to have been riding without helmets increased from 55 in 2012 to 60 in 2013—up 9 percent.
Helmet Laws Across the States
Nineteen states and Washington, D.C., have universal helmet laws. Ten times as many unhelmeted motorcyclist deaths occur in states without universal helmet laws compared to states with universal helmet laws. Three states—New Hampshire, Iowa and Illinois—do not have a motorcycle helmet law. Michigan is one of 28 states with a partial helmet law.
Riders in Michigan may choose not to wear a helmet as long as certain conditions are met. To legally not wear a helmet in Michigan, a motorcycle operator must be at least 21 years old, have at least $20,000 in first-party medical benefits and have held a motorcycle endorsement for at least two years or have passed an approved motorcycle safety course. Passengers may legally not wear helmets as long as they are at least 21 years old and have at least $20,000 in first-party medical benefits in addition to the insurance required of the motorcycle operator.
In Michigan, helmet use fell by almost one-quarter after the state passed that legislation two years ago.
In its report, the GHSA provides helpful strategies for states and drivers to prevent motorcycle crashes, injuries and fatalities, including the following:
· Increase helmet use;
· Reduce alcohol impairment;
· Reduce speeding;
· Provide motorcycle operator training to anyone who needs or seeks it;
· Assure that motorcyclists are properly licensed; and
· Encourage all drivers to share the road with motorcyclists.
Implementation of these strategies and others by states and individuals will hopefully help reduce motorcycle accidents and fatalities in the future. Contact a motorcycle accident attorney in Michigan if you need help recovering compensation for your injuries.