Peter “Pete” Pettalia, the state representative who wrote the legislation that led to the repeal of Michigan’s mandatory helmet law in 2012 died late Monday afternoon, September 12, in a motorcycle accident on State Highway 33 in the Atlanta State Forest.
Pettalia owned an auto repair business and lived in nearby Presque Isle. He was a volunteer firefighter with the Grand Lake Fire Department.
After he was elected to the state House as a Republican in November 2010 he became well-known as an advocate for motorcyclists. He was chairman of the Michigan House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Michigan had had a helmet law for 46 years before Pettalia introduced his “Helmet Choice Law.” The bill was co-sponsored in the state senate by Phil Pavlov and signed into law by Governor Rick Snyder. The law stipulated that motorcycle operators who were at least 21-years-old, and who had at least $20,000 in first-party medical benefits, and who had held a motorcycle endorsement for at least two years, or had passed an approved motorcycle safety course did not have to wear a helmet if they chose not to do so. The same law says that motorcycle passengers who are at least 21-years-old and who have at least $20,000 in first-party medical benefits can also ride helmetless. If you are under 21, you have to wear a helmet in Michigan.
The repeal of the helmet law has been relentlessly criticized by the Michigan State Police who have argued that annual motorcycle deaths in Michigan had averaged 112 before the repeal but had “spiked” to an average of 126 after the helmet law reform.
Pettalia was born in 1955 and he had lived in Presque Isle since 1977. He is survived by his wife Karen and his two children, Anna and Peter Jr.
Pettalia died in broad daylight when a pickup truck turned into his lane without warning. He struck the truck broadside and was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver was not cited or charged. Pete Pettalia was 61-years-old.
He was wearing a helmet when he died.
Requiscat In Pace