The repeal of Michigan's helmet law in May raised a lot of questions for safety advocates. The most pressing concern, of course, was whether relaxing the helmet requirement would lead to an increase in motorcycle accidents, head injuries or fatalities. And it's not just a question of numbers: The severity of injuries is also a concern.
A new MLive Media Group analysis of Michigan State Police records offers some preliminary data. The crash data covered the months since the mid-April repeal of the helmet law and included information about more than 1,300 motorcyclists and passengers in those accidents.
Some of the researchers' findings are surprising. In general, for example, there were far more accidents during the study period involving people with helmets than without. Helmeted riders were involved in 265 crashes, helmetless riders in 856.
Notably, the median age for helmetless riders in those accidents was 41.5 years. For helmeted riders, the median age was almost 8 years younger, at 34. And about half of helmetless riders were at fault for the accident, while just 42.1 percent of helmeted riders were at fault.
The researchers said most helmetless accidents were caused by a "hazardous action" on the biker's part, like speeding or failing to yield. According to the executive director of the Michigan Sheriffs' Association, the crash data doesn't tell the whole story. Motorcyclists may be cited for "no due caution," he said, for laying it down for reasons that have nothing to do with putting other drivers at risk.
While the results are a start, it's clear that more data is needed. The American Motorcyclist Association recommends 12 months of data be analyzed before researchers draw any conclusions.
Source: MLive.com, "MLive analysis: See who's more at fault in Michigan motorcycle crashes; riders with or without helmets?" John Barnes, July 26, 2012