A lot of science goes into constructing motorcycle helmets that will save lives. But that doesn’t do any good if riders choose not to wear them. The recent death of Michigan State Representative Peter Petallia, who sponsored the repeal of Michigan’s helmet law puts that choice in stark relief.
Michigan state Representative Peter Petallia (R-Presque Isle) was known for many things. As a legislator, served as vice chair of the Financial Services Committee and on the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Committee on Energy Policy, and Committee on Tourism and Outdoor Recreation. A resident of Presque Isle Township since 1977, Pettalia had represented Northern Michigan since 2010. But within the world of auto accident attorneys, Rep. Peter Petallia was best known for one thing: sponsoring the repeal of Michigan’s mandatory motorcycle helmet law in 2012.
Prior to 2012, every motorcycle rider in Michigan was legally required to wear a helmet whenever they rode on public streets. But that year, Petallia and other legislators decided to give riders an option. The bill allowed riders over 21 who maintain an endorsement to ride without a motorcycle helmet. Petallia’s bill did not pass, but another similar bill coming out of the Michigan Senate eventually became law.
A recent study reviewed the 12 months leading up to and following that decision, with an eye toward motorcycle fatalities. The study indicated that while the number of motorcycle accidents didn’t change, the death rate over doubled (from 2.8% before to 5.4% after the law went into effect). Head injuries also increased by 14% and skull fractures by 38%.
Now it appears that Petallia has joined the ranks of the fallen. According to a Montomorency County Sheriff, Mettalia was killed after his motorcycle struck a truck on M-33 in Loud Township in Northern Michigan. The pickup truck turned left into his lane and he hit the vehicle broadside.
While Petallia was in favor of allowing motorists to choose, he clearly understood the dangers of riding without a helmet. The Michigan State Police now report that Pettalia was wearing a motorcycle helmet at the time of his accident.
Every year, fatal motorcycle accidents take the lives of thousands of American bikers. While Pettalia’s case demonstrates that a helmet won’t always save your life, studies suggest it can drastically improve your chances to walk away without a serious brain injury.
Even so, many Michigan motorcyclists take advantage of the repealed helmet law every day. When they get into a crash, it costs them and Michigan tax payers an average of 32% more than their helmeted counterparts.
Would you take the risk? Would you skip the helmet knowing that the decision could cost you your life? Pettalia didn’t, and he sponsored the law. Perhaps there is a lesson there for Michigan motorcycle riders.
David Christensen is a motorcycle accident attorney at Christensen Law in Southfield, Michigan. He represents the victims of motorcycle crashes against insurance companies and at-fault drivers. If you have been seriously injured in a biking accident, contact Christensen Law today for a free consultation.