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      Health claims increase following motorcycle helmet law change

      A new study shows the average cost of medical claims from motorcycle crashes is on the rise since Michigan stopped requiring all riders to wear helmets.

      A new study shows the average cost of medical claims from motorcycle crashes is on the rise since Michigan stopped requiring all riders to wear helmets.

      The study by the Highway Loss Data Institute found the average insurance payment on a motorcycle injury claim rose 22 percent during the 2012 motorcycle riding season, compared with the same period in the two previous years.

      According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, states that either reinstated or enacted universal motorcycle helmet laws saw deaths and injuries of motorcyclists decrease. In states that repealed or weakened their universal helmet laws, deaths and injuries rose.

      The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that helmets cut the risk of a motorcycle fatality by 37 percent, and safety groups predicted that deaths would increase in Michigan as a result of the change.

      HLDI measures insurance losses three ways: by claim frequency, or rate; claim severity, or the average amount paid on each claim; and overall losses, which is the product of frequency and severity. Comparing losses in Michigan with losses in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin - where helmet laws did not change - and controlling for motorcycle age and class; rider age, gender and marital status; weather; and other factors, HLDI found that MedPay claim frequency was 10 percent higher than would have been expected without the law change, claim severity was 36 percent higher, and overall losses were 51 percent higher. The increases in claim severity and overall losses were statistically significant, but the change in claim frequency was not.

      Motorcycle helmet Laws vary from state to state . Laws requiring all motorcyclists to wear a helmet are in place in 19 states and the District of Columbia. Laws requiring only some motorcyclists to wear a helmet are in place in 28 states, including Michigan.

      Michigan's motorcycle helmet law was changed in April, 2012. The law allows motorcyclists to decide for themselves, if certain conditions are met, whether or not to wear a helmet.

      To legally not wear a helmet, a motorcycle operator must be at least 21 years old, have at least $20,000 in first-party medical benefits and have a motorcycle endorsement for at least two years or have passed an approved motorcycle safety course.

      In April of this year, representatives from insurance companies and medical groups, as well as some riders, met in Lansing to try and get the law changed back to mandatory helmet use to no avail.

      Some motorcycling associations say tougher licensing, more motorcycle safety programs and driver awareness is more affective at saving lives than helmets.

      The American Motorcyclist Association believes that adults should have the right to voluntarily decide when to wear a helmet. The AMA however does not oppose laws requiring helmets for minor motorcycle operators and passengers.

      The following is one part of the AMA's position on helmet use from its website:"The AMA notes there is a clear distinction between the voluntary use of helmets and mandatory helmet use laws. Some view the helmet solely as a mechanical safety device, similar to a seat belt. Many motorcyclists view the helmet as an accessory of personal apparel, and its use or non-use is connected with a chosen lifestyle and their right as adults to make their own decisions. Mandatory helmet laws do nothing to prevent crashes. Regardless of the protective equipment worn, any motorcyclist involved in a crash is at considerable risk. This makes it all the more vital to avoid a motorcycle crash in the first place, a strategy widely recognized and pursued in the motorcycling community."

      You can read more on the AMA and its responses to claims made by helmet law advocates by clicking here .

      Do you think the motorcyclists should be required to wear a helmet? Tell us "Your Point of View" by voting in the poll below and leaving your comments.