WASHINGTON, DC – In the recently issued publication, “Status Report,” a concerning article appeared citing a rise in head injuries in Michigan and attributed this to the State’s 2012 repeal of its helmet law. Notably, the article is part of a publication created by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) which, according to their website, is wholly funded by insurance companies.
The article pointed out that trauma centers in the state have experienced an increase in head injuries and partnered with the University of Michigan Injury Center to analyze motorcycle crash deaths and head-injury data since the repeal. Its findings suggested a 14% increase in hospitalized trauma patients with a head injury. However, it was unclear in the article that the increase in head injuries was directly related to motorcycle crashes. And moreover, that those crashes included drivers who were not wearing helmets. This data would have been critical to prove the article’s legitimacy. Surprisingly, given the article’s clear and matter of fact headline, “Head Injuries Rise as Riders Ditch Helmets in Michigan,” the author fails to notate anywhere in the piece that the increase in head injuries in hospitals is directly attributed to motorcycle crashes and those that were not wearing helmets. For many, the article’s concluding claim could be considered irresponsible journalism given that they fail to attribute the data to the exact subject they discuss in the article.
Furthermore, halfway through the article, it states, “there was no significant increase in the motorcycle fatality rate state-wide.” This sentence alone debunks what the research set out to do which was prove that deaths attributed to motorcycle crashes increased due to the helmet law repeal. Clearly, the research did not support the author’s hypothesis.
Biased pieces like the one in the September issue of Status Report frustrate motorcycle experts in the state who spend their personal time and livelihoods promoting motorcycle safety and awareness programs. Often, these individuals try to direct the focus to motorcycle crash prevention rather than the concept that IIHS touts; safer crashing. According to a recently issued press release from ABATE of Michigan, the real concern for riders’ safety is unendorsed motorcyclists and cars violating motorcyclists’ right of way.
Jim Rhodes, Legislative Coordinator for ABATE of Michigan agrees, stating that his objective, “has and always will be to promote motorcycle safety and car driver awareness programs in Michigan.” In fact, according to Rhodes, the motorcycle rights’ organization in Michigan has helped to pass four separate bills in recent years aimed at addressing the issue of uninsured riders as well as motorcycle safety and awareness. Further, the organization has partnered with public and private schools to reach more than 80,000 new drivers about motorcycle awareness.
Many motorcycle enthusiasts will argue that it’s the activities like the ones being executed by ABATE of Michigan that make the real difference in motorcycle safety and a more accurate reason as to why motorcycle deaths in the state have not increased despite the repeal of the helmet law.