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More data to undercut critics of mandatory helmet laws for bikers

Until last year, neighboring Michigan had a universal motorcycle helmet law. Then, caving in to various interests, legislators repealed that legislation of more than 40 years and replaced it with a requirement that only riders under 21 be required to wear a helmet.

The result of that, notes the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI, a nonprofit research group that publishes insurance statistics related to loss of all types, both bodily and property), was an increase of more than one-third on payments relating to an average motorcycle accident claim in the state for medical expenses.

Safety experts have been quick to point to the watered-down helmet law as the overriding cause of that sharp uptick.

Ohio advocates of a universal law have certainly noted and will start pointing to the study for support, noting that Ohio, too, has no law mandating helmets for all drivers and passengers.

The HLDI study was reportedly the first-ever research that looked at crash-related injuries and their severity through the prism of medical insurance claims. The conclusions couldn’t be more starkly clear or stated, say helmet proponents: Mandate universal laws and watch the injury rate -- and its severity -- plummet. Take the law away and see quite quickly just the opposite result.

A high-ranking spokesperson for one riders’ advocacy group says that the study is bogus and that insurers are simply touting it because “life has gotten more expensive for them and they have to pay our more.”

Although the two sides on this issue have always been far apart, one thing is crystal clear regarding motorcycle crashes: They have been steadily increasing for well more than a decade, with more than 5,000 fatal bike accidents in 2012.

Source: Insurance Journal, "Motorcycle injuries rise after helmet laws weakened: study," Joan Lowy, June 17, 2013

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