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Published: Tuesday, 6/13/2006

Crash reinforces Granholm's stance on helmets, spokesman says


If Michigan motorcyclists who like the feel of wind blowing through their hair were hoping to persuade Gov. Jennifer Granholm to change her mind about keeping the state's helmet law, yesterday's Pittsburgh crash involving Steelers' quarterback Ben Roethlisberger came at an inopportune time.

"This is an example of why the governor is concerned about safety," Liz Boyd, a gubernatorial spokesman, said yesterday.

A bill allowing most adult motorcyclists to ride without helmets that passed the Michigan House last week - after earlier approval by the state Senate - hasn't yet made it to Ms. Granholm's desk, Ms. Boyd said, so the governor had no chance to take a symbolic stand by vetoing it on the same day as Mr. Roethlisberger's crash.

The quarterback, who was not wearing a helmet, suffered multiple injuries when a collision tossed him into the windshield of a car that made a turn in front of his motorcycle.

But Ms. Boyd indicated Ms. Granholm had no intention of signing the bill in any case.

"Nobody has given us a good reason why [the helmet law] should be repealed," the spokesman said.

The proposal would allow riders 21 years and older to go without helmets if they have been licensed to operate a motorcycle for at least two years or if they have taken a safety course, and if they carry at least $10,000 in personal injury protection insurance.

Pennsylvania similarly relaxed its helmet law in September, 2003. Since then, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation said yesterday, motorcycle-crash fatalities have increased from 156 in 2003 and 158 in 2004 to 205 last year, with the number of no-helmet deaths rising from 27 to 87 over that period.

Department officials cautioned against linking the fatality increase directly to the helmet-law change because the number of Pennsylvania motorcycle registrations and licenses have both increased significantly during that time as well.

Michigan is one of 20 states that requires all motorcyclists to wear helmets, while Ohio law has long been similar to the current Pennsylvania statute..

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