5 Years Later: Revisiting Michigan's No Helmet Law

Lawmakers and motorcyclists continue to rumble about the 2012 repeal of a Michigan law that previously required motorcyclists to wear a helmet at all times. The new version of the law gives motorcyclists the option to decide whether or not they want to wear a helmet. “Our perspective is that this is a freedom issue and an individual rights issue,” said Jim Roades of American Bikers Aiming Toward Education (ABATE) of Michigan, a nonprofit cycling rights group that was vital in the push for the 2012 repeal. When asked about a potential return of the mandate, Rhoades said, “We would fight tooth and nail. We want people to know we’re not going anywhere.” 

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The Republican-controlled Congress does not appear to be showing any signs of bringing back the mandate, although science and statistics reveal the price that’s paid when head meets pavement in a motorcycle crash. 146 people were killed in 2016 due to motorcycle crashes, according to Michigan State Police data, which is the highest number since 1985. MLive reports that from 2000 to 2011, an average of 112 motorcyclists were killed per year. From 2012 (when the law took into effect) to 2015, that number has averaged nearly 126 people. 

In a 2016 study of 345 motorcycle crash victims treated at Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan, 10% of riders who were not wearing helmets died, compared to 3% of riders who did wear a helmet. The study also found that not wearing a helmet leads to more severe motorcycle crash head injuries, more days in intensive care, and more time on a ventilator. Additionally, getting into a motorcycle accident without a helmet and living to tell the tale will cost riders more, as the average hospital cost for non-helmeted riders was $27,760, 32% higher than for riders wearing helmets. 

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Dr. Carlos Rodriguez, a trauma surgeon at the hospital, told MLive that he happened to be on call the first few days following the law repeal. “We had three or four really bad motorcycle crashes and all of them had not been wearing helmets. It made an impression on me. I thought, ‘Wow, this is more than we normally see.'” The study also found that the number of riders brought to the hospital who had not been wearing a helmet during a crash had quadrupled. 

In 2014, Senator Rebekah Warren, a Democrat from Ann Arbor, Michigan introduced a bill that would restore mandatory helmet use in Michigan. The proposal was so unpopular among the legislators that it never even came to a vote. Warren once again proposed a similar piece of legislation in 2015, but it faced the same fate as the 2014 effort. “It’s very disappointing. This is really a public health issue. We are seeing a lot more injuries and deaths for people not wearing helmets,” Warren said. Warren has also stated that she is seeing growing support for restoring the law from medical groups. However, public support means little if the public doesn’t get a chance to vote on the issue. “I feel like with an issue like this, if we could actually have a hearing on what it means in our emergency room, what this means to our loved ones and what it means to all of taxpayers, I think you could change some minds,” Warren expressed. 

Senator Warren isn't the only one concerned about the risks to one's health that are created by choosing to ride without a helmet. Dr. Nicholas S. Adams of the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine and Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids recently led a study that found the number of skull fractures and other head and facial injuries doubled in the first three years following lawmakers' decision to make motorcycle helmets optional. Researchers estimate that the risk of facial trauma may be reduced by half and facial injuries by more than 30 percent just by wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle. Despite these facts, a third of motorcyclists do not wear helmets, even in states where they are required.   

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Under current law, riders 21 and older may ride a motorcycle without a helmet as long as they pass a safety course or have ridden a motorcycle in the past two years. They are also required to carry $20,000 in medical insurance. Michigan became the 31st state to allow motorcycles to ride without helmets when Governor Rick Snyder signed the bill that was twice vetoed by former Governor Jennifer Granholm. For the time being, it seems the laws will stay the same. Snyder reportedly does “not have any initiative underway to revisit the law," contrary to advice from doctors and researchers such as Adams, who say, "We urge state and national legislators to re-establish universal motorcycle helmet laws."

Motorcycle crashes can put riders, passengers, and other people on the road at risk of a severe injury or fatality. The easiest way to help prevent getting hurt from a motorcycle accident is to wear protective headgear. The endless discussion on whether or not helmets should be required will likely go on for years to come. Yet one thing remains clear: nothing bad ever came from wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle. 

Previously, The Michigan Law Firm, PLLC blog discussed helpful tips on how to safely ride a motorcycle. In this article, wearing a helmet was the number one tip. Wearing a helmet can be the difference between a trip to the hospital and a trip to the morgue, and in a state with poor road conditions like Michigan, you can never take too many safety precautions. If you or somebody you know has been injured in a motorcycle accident or an automobile crash involving a motorcycle, call The Michigan Law Firm, PLLC. Our attorneys are experienced in working side by side with victims to identify possible legal solutions. Call us today, at 844.4MI.FIRM for a free consultation. 

Michigan Roadside Drug Testing Pilot Delayed

Rick Snyder signed a bill in June 2016, instructing Michigan police to create a roadside drug testing pilot program in five counties in Michigan. The criteria for picking the five counties will be based on the number of impaired driving crashes, impaired driver arrests, and the number of Drug Recognition Experts (DRE) in the county. 

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Why Was The Bill Passed?

The bill was signed because of an incident which took place in Escanaba, Michigan. A tractor-trailer driven by Harley Davidson Durocher, ran a red light and killed Barbara and Thomas Swift. Durocher, was sentenced to 5 years in prison after toxicology reports showed that he had THC, a chemical usually found in marijuana, in his system. After the death of his parents, Brian Swift contacted the Republican senator of Escanaba, Tom Casperson, to create a better way to catch and charge drivers under the influence of drugs. Thus the roadside drug testing pilot came to fruition.

What Does The Roadside Drug Testing Pilot Include?

"The five-county pilot program will be used to help determine accuracy and reliability of the tests." Gov. Rick Snyder said in a press release after signing the bill. 

Reports from the Office of Highway Safety Planning listed Michigan as having 99 certified DRE officers covering 37 counties. Michigan State Police spokeswoman Shannon Banner reassured the public that DRE officers have to undergo “highly specialized training” in order to identify people who are drug impaired. Banner also insisted that the test will only be administered by DRE officers who are employed by the state, county, and municipal agencies involved in the pilot. 

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Banner told MLive that, "In order to receive an oral fluid test, a driver must be suspected of impaired driving -- there will be no random traffic stops or traffic checkpoints. The police officer making the traffic stop must follow established policies and procedures and have reasonable suspicion to make a traffic stop."

If someone suspected of having drugs in their system while driving refuses to take the oral fluid test, they will acquire a civil infraction, as the new law states. During the course of the year that the pilot program will be running, an independent lab will conduct and confirm the testing to ensure the accuracy of the test kits, along with its handling.  

Who Opposes The Drug Testing Pilot? 

The main opposing force for the bill is Attorney Neil Rockind of Rockind Law, who argues that the bill is setting a dangerous precedent for Michigan motorists to be treated as guinea pigs. Rockind said, “The criminal justice system wants to take science and turn it into a fast, easy utility...science is neither fast nor easy...People are not guinea pigs. No citizen should be the subject of a test program when their liberty and way of life are on the line."

Is The Pilot Underway? 

In an article concerning the rise in traffic fatalities in Michigan, Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning Director Michael L. Prince said, "Some trends are emerging, especially with regard to drug-impaired traffic deaths, and our office is aligning resources accordingly. More resources are available to train law enforcement officers in the detection of drug-impaired drivers and OHSP is continuing federal funding for impaired driving traffic patrols throughout the year."

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Prince's comment seems to imply that the roadside drug testing pilot is still under delay even though it was rumored to start in Spring of 2017. In spite of this pilot being able to prevent or at least bring awareness to the 10 million people who choose to drive while on drugs nationwide, the Michigan State Police have yet to finalize the five counties chosen for the pilot. 

When the program is put into effect however, hopefully the number of car accidents involving drug and alcohol use will go down. In the meanwhile, drivers should be extra cautious on the road. Keep clear of drivers who are not following road rules, in order to avoid becoming involved in a car crash. On the other hand, if drivers plan to drink, they should find an alternative way to get home that doesn't involve putting themselves behind the wheel, so they don't harm other innocent drivers.

Once it's in effect, the roadside drug test pilot could possibly cut down the number of accidents and thereby prevent deaths and serious injuries caused by drivers under the influence. If you or someone you know has been in an accident caused by an impaired driver, call The Michigan Law Firm, PLLC. Victims of drunk driving accidents deserve an attorney who will stand by them and fight for their rights. Call us today, 844.4MI.FIRM for a free consultation. 

How To Share The Road With A School Bus

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It’s an average Tuesday morning, and you're in a hurry to get to work on time. Unfortunately, you are now driving behind a school bus which is stopping every 50 yards along its path to pick up students on their way to school. Many drivers flirt with the temptation of driving around and passing the bus, even as the lights begin to flash and the STOP sign comes out. Not only is passing a school bus while it’s stopped and picking up students illegal, it’s extremely dangerous. DriveSafely.net estimates that 50,000 motorists illegally pass a school bus every single day. While a good portion of these drivers make the decision to pass the bus because of a lack of patience, there are many drivers that pass a bus because they are not familiar with the local laws pertaining to school bus safety. 

The Michigan State Police (MSP) have outlined how driver’s should react when driving near a school bus, as well as the possible consequences for breaking the law. 

School Bus Safety Tips for Drivers: 

  • Prepare to stop when a slowing bus has its overhead yellow lights flashing
  • Stop at least 20 feet away for buses when red lights are flashing, unless driving in the opposite direction on a divided highway
  • Slow down in or near school and residential areas
  • Look for clues such as safety patrols, crossing guards, bicycles, and playgrounds which indicate children might be in the area
  • Watch for children between parked cars and other objects
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The MSP suggests that drivers treat school buses as regular traffic signals. When the overhead lights are flashing yellow, drivers should prepare to stop. If the bus lights are flashing red, stop immediately and do not attempt to pass the bus. When hazard lights are flashing, it is okay to proceed around the bus with extreme caution. The MSP also encourages parents to have a talk with their children about what they can do to stay safe when boarding and exiting the school bus. Children should stay in sight of the bus driver at all times, and always walk around the front of the bus, not the rear. Children are also advised to not hurry off the bus, and make sure that there is no oncoming traffic before crossing the street.

Governor Rick Snyder signed a bill into law in 2012 which made it illegal to pass a school bus while it is unloading students under any circumstances. Violators of the law could pay a fine between $100 and $500, as well as serve a required 100 hours of community service. 

No matter how frustrating it may be to get stuck behind a school bus, there is no excuse for breaking the law and endangering school children. If you find yourself getting stuck behind a bus on a daily basis, it may be best to find a different route to work. If you or somebody you know has a child injured due to a car attempting to pass a school bus, please call The Michigan Law Firm, PLLC. Our firm will work hard to get you any financial support for medical services and any other expenses you may experience, that you may be entitled to under Michigan law. Call us today, at 844.4MI.FIRM for a free consultation. 

Michigan Bill Will Transfer Road Funding From Cities to Residents

A bill was passed by the Michigan legislature recently that could change the funding formula for how repairs to freeways and highways are paid for. With Governor Snyder’s approval, the bill would change a funding system which has been in place since 1951. 

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Traditionally, larger cities were responsible for paying for part of any freeway or highway project that came through their city limits. Many expensive road repair projects in Michigan are needed in the near future, including a $1 Billion project on I-75. -The Michigan Department of Transportation told the Detroit Free Press that most of the road funding comes from the state and federal levels, and cities provide as much as 2.5% of the total cost. When the project costs millions, 2.5% can be a large bill for some Michigan cities. 

“This bill will mean more taxpayer dollars from home will stay at home, so that the city roads we drive on most often can be repaired.”

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If Snyder signs the bill, the cities would no longer be responsible for paying for the projects. Cities would then be able to take the saved money and aim it towards repairing local roads instead. To make up for the fiscal gap that cities would leave when it comes to paying for freeways and highways, MDOT would pick up the bill, meaning the extra cost would be spread across all Michigan taxpayers. “The bill will protect cities like Troy, Madison Heights, and Detroit from unexpected large bills during freeway projects, but it also means that road users statewide will bear the cost when surface roads like Woodward, Gratiot, Groesbeck, 8 Mile, Ford Road and Michigan Avenue are reconstructed," Jeff Cranson, MDOT Communications Director, explained.

The Michigan Senate bill was sponsored by Senator Marty Knollenberg from Troy, whose constituents were going to take on a tab of more than $9 million for Troy’s share of the I-75 project. The project, which includes a rebuilding and expansion of 17 miles of I-75 in Oakland County, will take 15 years to complete. “This bill will mean more taxpayer dollars from home will stay at home, so that the city roads we drive on most often can be repaired,” Knollenberg said in a statement. 

While Michigan roads may not be in the best of shape, poor road conditions can cause damage to your vehicle, and can even make you lose control of the car. If you or somebody you know has been involved in an auto accident caused by poor road conditions, call The Michigan Law Firm, PLLC. Car accidents can lead to short term and long term emotional and physical injuries, and our legal team will work alongside you to find the best solutions for your situation. Call us today, at 844.4MI.FIRM for a free consultation. 

Failure of Proposal 1: Michigan Roads Still in Disrepair

The result is in for the May 5th, 2015 Michigan vote on the controversial Proposal 1. The purpose of the vote was to make a decision on the proposal aimed to raise money to fix the dangerous Michigan roads and the potholes which commonly lead to Michigan car accidents. The Proposal, according to the House Fiscal Agency, included one constitutional amendment and 10 statutes. All in all, the proposal, if passed would have created $1.9 billion dollars once fully implemented in the 2017-2018 fiscal year. Specifically, this would equate to $116.1 million for public transportation, $200 million for the School Aid Fund, $111.1 million for cities, and $173 million for Michigan’s General Fund.
Prior to the election, a poll conducted by Lansing’s EPIC-MRA on January 29, 2015 discovered that 46% of the people they surveyed would vote “yes” on Proposal 1 and 41% would vote “no”. Though after hearing more details on the Proposal, 47% said “yes” and only 38% said “no”. This change may be attributed to the fact that Michiganders are big proponents of road improvement. Most policy makers and media outlets thought in the same vein that Michigan voters would vote “yes” on anything that would fix Michigan roads. Alas, the terrible Michigan roads will not see any change due to Proposal 1.
However, citizens and drivers in Michigan shouldn’t be disappointed yet. There are still several other plans that may go into effect in Proposal 1’s place. The Michigan legislature is back to the drawing board.

One such alternative plan was the previously proposed by Governor Snyder Plan. Governor Snyder’s plan was actually already a part of Proposal 1. In 2013, Snyder proposed raising fuel taxes and vehicle registration taxes in an effort to create an extra $1.2 billion for road funding. Specifically, the 19 cent regular fuel and 15 cent diesel fuel tax were to be raised to 33 cents a gallon and Michigan vehicle registration fees for cars and light trucks was to be raised by 60%. It seems that any plans to raise money, including Snyder’s plan, require some kind of tax raise. So, while Michigan voters didn't vote for all of the provisions of Proposal 1, perhaps they will be willing to support a yet to be determined alternative to fix the state of Michigan roadways. 

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The Michigan Law Firm, PLLC will continue to monitor the situation regarding Michigan road repair funding as it affects Michigan drivers and their safety on the road.  Our auto accident attorneys are always available at 844.4MI.FIRM to speak to you regarding Michigan road funding and incidents regarding injury accidents. 

Everything You Need To Know To Vote on Proposal 1

Voters in Michigan will be lining up to make a decision to pass the Michigan Sales Tax Increase for Transportation Amendment, also known as, Proposal 1, on Tuesday, May 5, 2015. This article aims to provide Michigan voters with all of the necessary information needed to make an informed choice regarding Michigan roads on the ballot.
First, Michigan voters need to be made aware of the changes that could occur if this proposal is passed. Proposal 1 intends to create one constitutional amendment, to raise Michigan sales tax, and ten statutes in the Michigan legislature. The idea behind these changes is to raise enough money to fix the poor state of Michigan roads by raising taxes and creating more Michigan laws.
The official language of Proposal One, approved by the Board of State Canvassers is as follows:

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A proposal to amend the State Constitution to increase the sales/use tax from 6% to 7% to replace and supplement reduced revenue to the School Aid Fund and local units of government caused by the elimination of the sales/use tax on gasoline and diesel fuel for vehicles operating on public roads, and to give effect to laws that provide additional money for roads and other transportation purposes by increasing the gas tax and vehicle registration fees.

The proposed constitutional amendment would:

  • Eliminate sales / use taxes on gasoline / diesel fuel for vehicles on public roads.

  • Increase portion of use tax dedicated to School Aid Fund (SAF).

  • Expand use of SAF to community colleges and career / technical education, and

  • prohibit use for 4-year colleges / universities.

  • Give effect to laws, including those that:

    • Increase sales / use tax to 7%, as authorized by constitutional amendment.

    • Increase gasoline / diesel fuel tax and adjust annually for inflation,
      Increase vehicle registration fees, and dedicate revenue for roads and other transportation purposes

    • Expand competitive bidding and warranties for road projects

    • Increase earned income tax credit.

Should this proposal be adopted?
YES [ ]
NO [ ]

In other words, Proposal 1 would increase Michigan state sales tax, increase fuel tax and allow for fuel tax to be increased every year for inflation, and increase motor vehicle registration fees. These fees would not only be used to expand the transportation fund but would also be used to bolster the School Aid Fund.
The increases in taxes by Proposal 1 are estimated to cost an additional $477 to $545 per Michigan household. According to the Michigan House Fiscal Agency, once Proposal 1 is fully implemented in the fiscal year 2017-2018, Michigan’s state revenue will be increased to $1.9 billion dollars. This significant increase would be divided to create $116.1 million for public transportation, $200 million for the School Aid Fund, $111.1 million for cities, and $173 million for Michigan’s General Fund.
A poll conducted by Lansing’s EPIC-MRA on January 29, 2015 discovered that 46% of the people they surveyed would vote “yes” on Proposal 1 and 41% would vote “no”. Though after hearing more details on the Proposal, 47% said “yes” and only 38% said “no”. This change may be attributed to the fact that Michiganders are big proponents of road improvement. The current state of Michigan roads is miserable. Numerous potholes, crumbling asphalt, and broken bridges cause thousands of auto accidents in Michigan every year. Many of these motor vehicle crashes result in serious, life-changing injuries or even death. Some of these car accidents may be prevented by simply repairing Michigan's dangerous roads.
If you have been injured in an car or motorcycle accident, call The Michigan Law Firm, PLLC. Our experienced auto accident attorneys are ready to help victims of car crashes deal with insurance companies, pay for medical bills, and easing your road to recovery. Call us today at 844.4MI.FIRM or click here for a free consultation.