Transportation
6:12 am
Tue May 6, 2014

Michigan motorcycle deaths in 2013 held steady compared to 7% national decline

Credit Morguefile

The number of motorcycle deaths in Michigan in 2013 was almost the same as the year before. During the same period, motorcycle fatalities nationwide dropped 7%.

These are the preliminary findings of a report issued Tuesday by the Governors Highway Safety Association.

Dr.  James Hedlund, a former senior official with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, authored the report.

Hedlund said the national drop in motorcycle deaths in 2013 was because the weather was cooler and wetter than the year before. "So less travel by motorcyclists than in 2012, less crashes, fewer fatalities," he explained.

Hedlund said helmets are the single best way to prevent death or serious injury in a motorcycle crash. "If you're not wearing a helmet and you crash, your chances of getting killed are 37% higher than if you are wearing a helmet," he said.

Michigan repealed its helmet law in 2012. Motorcycle operators and passengers are no longer required to wear a helmet if they are at least 21 years old and have at least $20,000 in first-party medical benefits. 

According to the report, enacting a universal helmet law in the 31 states that don't have one is the most effective way to increase helmet use and cut motorcycle head injuries and deaths. Hedlund said helmet usage is close to 100% in states with such laws, compared to about 50% in states without them.

Along with increased helmet use, the report recommends that states:

  • Reduce alcohol impairment
  • Reduce speeding
  • Ensure proper training and licensing of motorcycle operators
  • Educate all drivers to share the road with motorcyclists

The report is based on data for the first nine months of 2013 compared with data for the same time period in 2012.

–Virginia Gordan,  Michigan Radio Newsroom