Michigan Motorcycle Deaths Decline Since Helmet Mandate Repeal

State police data shows fatalities and injuries down, despite media reports

A Grand Rapids doctor generated national headlines with his study that claimed motorcyclist head injuries and deaths have increased sharply since the state repealed a mandatory helmet law in 2012.

Dr. Carlos Rodriguez, the author of the study, said that he noticed a spike in injuries and deaths while working in the trauma unit at Spectrum Health Hospital.

"Injuries soar after Michigan stops requiring motorcycle helmets," is what the Reuters news service said in a headline.

But statistics compiled by the Michigan State Police don’t support a claim of a large increase in motorcycle-related injuries or deaths since the helmet law was lifted.

“We are reporting what we are finding (at Spectrum Health Hospital)," Rodriguez said. "That's the only thing we can report."

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His study looked at 345 individuals treated at the West Michigan hospital for motorcycle crashes during the months of April through October during the years 2011 through 2014. The helmet law was repealed in April 2012.

The state police data on motorcycle accident deaths and injuries don't show an increase in the first two years after the helmet law was lifted.

In 2012, 129 people were killed in Michigan motorcycle accidents and 2,870 injured. Those numbers dropped to 128 and 2,497 respectively in 2013. In 2014, the most recent year for which data is available, 107 people were killed and 2,309 injured.

Between 2005 to 2011, while the helmet mandate was still in effect, an average of 114.2 people were killed each year in Michigan motorcycle accidents and 2,757.6 injured. The state police data shows no clear trend.

Sierra Medrano, a spokeswoman for the Michigan State Police, said all traffic crashes are reported to the state police.

"By law, all law enforcement agencies are required to submit qualifying crash reports (reports made using the UD-10 State of Michigan Traffic Crash Report) to the MSP," Medrano said in an email. "The UD-10 Traffic Crash Report Instruction Manual provides law enforcement officers with instructions on what crashes [to report] and how to record them correctly."