Michigan Becomes 31st State to Repeal Helmet Laws—Will Tennessee Be Next?

The recent Michigan mandatory helmet wear law for motorcycles has been repealed, further strengthening the movement in the state of Tennessee.
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Aug. 5, 2012 - PRLog -- On Friday, April 13, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed the repeal of the state’s mandatory helmet law, making Michigan the 31st state in the U.S. to support such legislation. This leaves only 19 remaining states, including Tennessee, that carry mandatory helmet laws.

There is significant interest in Tennessee in repealing helmet laws. In early 2012, Tennessee legislator Judd Matheny (R-Tullahoma) entered a bill before the House Transportation Subcommittee proposing to do what Michigan and 30 other states have done—end or limit mandatory helmet laws. The issue is expected to be a hot topic during the next session.

At the for-repeal argument’s core are the issues of tourism dollars and whether or not helmets are always the safest bet for riders. Upon repeal of motorcycle helmet laws, states such as Florida took in an additional $426 million in motorcycle-generated revenue from sales tax, title changes, registration fees and tourism dollars post repeal, according to HelmetFreeTN.com.

If Tennessee were to follow the route of states such as Arkansas, Florida and Texas, more than $58.5 million in tax revenues could potentially be collected post-motorcycle repeal.

Other issues in the pro-helmet repeal movement include freedom of choice and safety concerns for helmet use, including reduced visibility and neck injuries due to neck strain from wearing a helmet.

Those who oppose helmet repeal argue that injury and crash numbers tend to increase with helmet repeals, although their argument is flawed. While injury and crash numbers to rise after repeal, the rise can be attributed to a significant increase in riders.  Consider this scenario – if you were running a restaurant, doubling your sales would be a welcome development. However, you would naturally expect an increase in food costs as well, because you are serving more people.

It is important to note that a study from the American Motorcyclists Association found that states with mandatory motorcycle helmet laws have a higher rate of fatalities (6.12) compared to those with voluntary motorcycle laws (5.09) per 10,000 motorcycle registrations. States with mandatory laws believe suiting a rider up to survive a crash is the best approach to safety. However, the best approach is to avoid crashes altogether. Helmets elevate the risk for an accident by blocking a rider’s peripheral vision and muffling the sense of sound. When combined, these two factors are what experts believe result in the higher death rate per 10,000 registrations.

Michigan’s repeal comes on a 30-year effort by motorcycle advocacy groups to enjoy their right of choice to wear a helmet or not. Under new Michigan laws, riders who are age 21 or older and who carry $20,000 in additional medical insurance may ride without a helmet. They also must have passed a safety course or held a motorcycle endorsement for two years.

The helmet/no-helmet debate likely will remain a hotly contested one in Tennessee, which remains in the minority 19 states with mandatory helmet laws.

For more information, visit:

http://HelmetFreeTN.com for information and statistics on rider laws.
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