News Item: Health advocates fight helmet law repeal
(Category: Biker News)
Posted by MJF
Friday 23 June 2006 - 17:16:24

Detroit News
by Gary Heinlein
LANSING -- Insurers, doctors and law officers are pressing Gov. Jennifer Granholm to veto legislation that would repeal the state's motorcycle helmet law.

The repeal, part of an effort in which bikers have overturned helmet laws in several states, was approved by lawmakers and sent to Granholm a week ago. She has until the end of next week to sign it, veto it or let it become law without her signature.

While she hasn't revealed for certain what she'll do, Granholm says nobody has given her a good reason to do away with the 37-year-old helmet requirement.

In a Capitol rally by repeal opponents Thursday, emergency room physician Earl Reisdorff of Lansing called the measure "a legislative path that leads to death." The freedom to cruise without a helmet is "a whimsy that will be a tax on our homes" as all state residents share in the costs to care for additional devastating brain injuries suffered by riders in accidents, Reisdorff said.

An organization called ABATE of Michigan (American Bikers Aiming Toward Education) for years has sought the right for cyclists to ride with the wind in their hair, even arguing the helmet law hurts tourism as riders steer toward nonhelmet states.

The House gave Senate Bill 297 final approval June 7, following a rally by 800 bikers in front of the Capitol. House Speaker Craig DeRoche, R-Novi, and Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis climbed aboard Harley-Davidson motorcycles in Fowlerville to lead a 30-mile procession of several hundred bikers to the Lansing gathering.

A 66-37 vote, following last year's Senate approval, marked the first time both chambers agreed during the same legislative session that Michigan should join 30 other states -- including those in the Midwest -- to let riders decide whether to don helmets.

On Thursday, opponents pointed to grim predictions in a study by the Michigan State Police Office of Highway Safety Planning: the repeal would result in 22 added fatalities, 132 more incapacitating injuries and 610 other injuries annually -- costing Michigan $140 million more.

Dan Petterson, an enthusiast and safe riding educator, said ABATE, with fewer than 4,000 members in 2003, represents a fraction of the nearly half-million cyclists in Michigan. That minority "should not be allowed to have their way just because they have lobbied hard," Petterson said.

A recent EPIC/MRA poll showed 70 percent of Michiganians favor the existing helmet law.

You can reach Gary Heinlein at (313) 222-2470 or gheinlein©

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