Michigan Poised to Ratify Helmet Freedom Of Choice Bill

Lansing: Michigan Legislators in the State House voted overwhelmingly to allow motorcyclist 21 and over to decide for themselves if they want to wear a helmet or not.  The only requirements are that they have 2 years experience or have completed an approved motorcycle safety course and carry $20,000 in medical insurance.

State Senators receive the bill to work through the differences from a version they previously approved this past June.  After that, the legislation lands on Michigan’s Governor  Rick Snyder’s desk.  Snyder says he’ll sign the bill, but only if certain insurance reforms are in place.

“The governor has been clear and consistent that for him to look at any helmet law repeal it has to take place in context of broader auto insurance reform,” Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said.

For Michigan’s Insurance lobby, the issue is simply about money.  Typically the Insurance industry is a staunch opponent of freedom of choice, and frames its arguments against legislation like this by scaring the public with the specter of the financial bogey man for the state’s taxpayers.  “The consequences of a person’s decision not to wear a helmet is borne by all of society through higher insurance premiums, lost productivity and increased health care costs,” said Lori Conarton, spokeswoman for the Insurance Institute of Michigan.”

Former Gov. Jennifer Granholm nixed the legislation twice with a stroke of her pen, siding with the powerful Insurance and Health Care lobby.  Governor Snyder, however, hasn’t shot down the idea of signing the bill if it reached his desk.

Supporters of the bill include ABATE, State Tourism officials and lawmakers who helped push the legislation through say that motorcyclist avoid Michigan because of the helmet law.  Peter Pettalia, R-Presque Isle, (a former emergency medical tech) spoke in favor of the bill and agreed that head injuries are traumatic, but the bill give people the choice and many will wear a helmet, but the requirement is a turn off to many motorcycle tourists.  Pettalia told the Detroit News, “”We’re surrounded by helmetless states. So if somebody wants to travel to the Great Lakes, they will oftentimes travel into the Wisconsin area where the Dells are and avoid coming into Michigan.”

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Irony and “Tragic Coincidence” Mar Independence Holiday Weekend

Across the United States, motorcyclists celebrated our nation’s birthday over the long Fourth of July holiday weekend with patriotic celebrations and protest rides.  But according to a story in the Post-Standard Philip A. Contos died during the June 2nd, ABATE of Onandaga’s 11th annual Helmet Protest Run.  Contos lost control of his 1983 Harley-Davidson and flipped over the handlebars.  In the report, the police report that a helmet would have likely saved Contos, saying he suffered a skull fracture which likely contributed to his death.   The mainstream media was quick to jump on the theory and use the police report as evidence that Contos caused his own death by not wearing a helmet.  At least one blogger, Robert Paul Reyes  went so far  as to call Contos a “moron” for not wearing a helmet.

Freedom of choice advocates say Contos knew the risks and his death is not a black mark on the movement.   “ABATE is very saddened and still shocked about the fact that we’ve lost another rider in Philip and that our hearts go out to him and our prayers as well,” Syracuse chapter president Christinea Rathbun told a local ABC affiliate.

Later that same night, thousands of miles away in San Antonio Texas, in an unrelated yet bizarre coincidence, heavy metal vocalist Victor Villarreal, known as Vikk Real of both One of Sixx and Byfist, was killed when his motorcycle was struck by a horse trailer hauled by a pickup truck when the was attempting to make a U-turn in the roadway to return to a riding partner who’s motorcycle had broken down.

In an eerie, Alman Brothers style coincidence, Villarreal’s wife Jessica was killed last July while riding her motorcycle on her 37th birthday.   Villarreal was the singer of One of Sixx and his wife sang back up vocals. They are survived by two children: a son, 17, and a daughter, 11.

And, if that wasn’t enough, two members of a motorcycle club that was formed to help it’s members stay clean and sober were killed by an alleged drunk driver who crossed the center lane into their path. Keith Michaelson and Michael Zadoyko and seven other members of the Last Chance Motorcycle Club, were enroute to a wake for a member who passed away in Pennsylvania.

The group was riding a twisty section of Route 512 in Bangor, Pennsylvania when a pick-up truck driven by  John P. Heaney III, 49, of Lopatcong Township crossed the center line into the group.  The District Attorney told reporters that alcohol was evident and that charges against Heaney are “pending.”


Arizona Congresswoman Part of Motorcycle Fraternity

photo from Hell for Leather.com

By now you probably know more about Arizona representative Gabrielle Giffords than you do about your own Congressman or woman but there’s one fact that only a few of the mainstream media is reporting.  Representative Giffords is an avid motorcyclist.  A freedom of choice advocate, and was the chair of the Congressional Motorcycle Safety Caucus.   She’s been riding motorcycles in her home state for the past 20 years.   There is a good report in the NY Times about her background.