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Report: Motorcycle Fatalities Decrease After Helmet Law Change

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DETROIT (CBS Detroit) A group called American Bikers Aiming Toward Education — or ABATE — says recent data from the Michigan State Police and Secretary of State proves mandatory helmet law supporters are dead wrong.

“We used the Michigan State Police/Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning data, which compares motorcycle data between January 1 and August 31 for the last two years, and the numbers speak for themselves,” said Vince Consiglio, president of ABATE Michigan.

From 2011, before the mandatory helmet law was revoked,  to 2012 when the law changed, total fatalities dropped from 89 to 85— a 4.5 percent reduction, the study says.

Adjusting the data to show fatalities as a percentage of motorcyclists involved shows a decrease from 3.24 percent to 3.05 percent — a 5.8 percent reduction.

During the same time period, the number of motorcycle registrations increased from 261,658 to 266,589.

The state isn’t ready to confirm the statistics or the findings, saying the numbers used in the study are provisional.

“While some media outlets are reporting a drop in Michigan motorcyclist deaths in 2012, the state’s traffic crash, injury and fatality information for the current year is provisional and changes on a daily basis,” the Michigan Office Of Highway Safety Planning said in a press release. “It is not possible to conduct an analysis or draw conclusions regarding motorcyclist deaths until the entire year’s crash data is finalized sometime in the spring of 2013.”

The state said incapacitating injuries for this same period from a year ago are up by 14 percent — 441 in 2011 and 504 in 2012.

“These figures will continue to change as additional crash reports are submitted by law enforcement agencies throughout the state,” the state’s safety experts said.

But ABATE is standing by its numbers.

“This data proves conclusively that the helmet-law amendment had no adverse effect on motorcycle safety,” Consiglio said. “What does matter is car driver/motorcyclists awareness and motorcycle education, which we have advocated for and provided to residents of Michigan for more than two decades.”

Because 40 percent of Michigan motorcycle fatalities involve unlicensed—or unendorsed— motorcyclists, so ABATE said it continues its mission of teaching motorcycle rider education classes and going to drivers’ education classes.

“A motorcyclist has a responsibility to know how to handle his or her bike,” Consiglio added. “However, a motorcyclist is much more vulnerable than a passenger vehicle occupant in the event of a crash.”

Consiglio offered tips for drivers to help keep motorcyclists safe on our roadways.

  • Remember, a motorcycle is a vehicle with all of the rights and privileges of any other motor vehicle.
  • Always allow a motorcyclist the full lane width—never try to share a lane.
  • Perform a visual check for motorcycles by checking mirrors and blind spots before entering or exiting a lane of traffic, and at intersections.
  • Always signal your intentions before changing lanes or merging with traffic.
  • Don’t be fooled by a flashing turn signal on a motorcycle – motorcycle signals are often not self-canceling and riders sometimes forget to turn them off. Wait to be sure the motorcycle is going to turn before you proceed.
  • Allow more following distance – three or four seconds – when behind a motorcycle so the motorcyclist has enough time to maneuver or stop in an emergency.
  • Never tailgate. In dry conditions, motorcycles can stop more quickly than cars.
  • Never drive while distracted.

Consiglio said motorcyclists can increase their safety by:

  • Avoiding riding in poor weather conditions;
  • Using turn signals for every turn or lane change, even if the rider thinks no one will see it;
  • Combining hand signals and turn signals to draw more attention to themselves;
  • Positioning themselves in the lane where they will be most visible to other drivers; and
  • Never driving while impaired.
  • Taking and passing an approved motorcycle rider education class and getting endorsed.

A motorcycle endorsement on a driver’s license is required by law to ride on public roads and can be obtained by attending and passing a motorcycle rider education class, which are available statewide for a fee. A list of Secretary of State approved Michigan Motorcycle Safety Program instructors, along with their locations and contact information can be found the Secretary of State’s website. A current list of ABATE Michigan motorcycle rider education classes locations and times can be found on ABATE Michigan’s website.

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