Mandatory helmet laws save lives

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Mandatory helmet laws for motorcycle riders work. Lives are saved.

It’s why Washington state’s mandatory helmet law — like the seat-belt mandate for cars and trucks — was put in place. It benefits society.

The severity of injuries and death is significantly diminished when helmets are worn. Medical costs are reduced and lives are saved. Families, friends, employers and co-workers are spared the unfortunate changes in their lives as well as grief. And traffic crashes occur on public roadways.

Mandating helmet use isn’t about bubble wrapping everybody so they won’t be harmed in any way. It is about requiring people to take reasonable precautions to protect themselves.

Yet, every year an effort is launched in Olympia to repeal the helmet law cloaked as a freedom issues.

This year is no exception. Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, sponsored legislation to remove the helmet law for those 18 and over. The proposal is still alive in the current special session.

Lifting helmet requirement would be costly and foolish. We know this because of what has occurred in Michigan.

More than a year ago the Michigan Legislature lifted the helmet requirement for those 21 and over.

A study by the Highway Loss Data Institute found the average insurance payment on a motorcycle injury claim in Michigan was $5,410 in the two years before the helmet-law change but rose to $7,257, or 34 percent, after the change. Another study indicates the use of helmets decreased by about 24 percent. Before the law change, 98 percent of those involved in motorcycle crashes wore helmets compared to 74 percent following the change.

“The cost per injury claim is significantly higher after the law changed than before, which is consistent with other research that shows riding without a helmet leads to more head injuries,” said David Zuby, chief research officer for the data institute, an organization affiliated with Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Yes, the insurance industry has a stake in mandatory insurance laws, they keeps their costs — their payouts — lower.

But the higher costs don’t come out of insurance companies’ bottom-line profits, they come from the increase in premiums customers pay.

Lawmakers should leave the requirement in Washington state alone. In this instance, taking no action will save lives and money.

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