A recent study published by Florida Atlantic University (FAU) in the journal Social Science and Medicine has found that states that have laws restricting the use of cell phones have a greatly reduced number of motorcycle fatalities. The study claims that states with moderate to strong laws have a motorcycle fatality that differs by as much as 11% from states without such laws.
Motorcyclists account for a much higher proportion of traffic fatalities relative to the number of motorcycles, when measured against all motor vehicles and vehicle miles driven in the U.S. In reaching their conclusions, the study’s authors obtained annual data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System.
They reviewed total and motorcycle-specific traffic fatalities for all 50 states for the period of 2005-2015. This data was then merged with state-specific characteristics for texting/handheld device laws. Other traffic policies were also reviewed to arrive at an estimate of the effectiveness of strong, moderate and weak laws compared to having no laws.
Study co-author Gulcin Guman, Ph.D., an associate professor of health administration in the Department of Management Programs at FAU’s College of Business said:
“In the case of motorcycles, these laws seem to be effective. While it’s not clear that these laws have had an impact on reducing the overall number of traffic fatalities, when we focus specifically on motorcycles, we find that these laws are having a major impact in reducing deaths among motorcycle riders. “
Michael T. French, Professor of Health Economics at the Miami Business School’s Department of Health Management and Policy and an avid rider said:
“Every day about nine Americans are killed and more than 1,000 are injured in traffic crashes that involve distracted drivers. “While our initial goal was to understand whether these laws save lives on the road, the broader application of our findings is even more powerful.”
“We have a better appreciation for the range of policies across states and years, and what makes texting/handheld bans strong and effective, especially for motorcyclists. Hopefully these results will facilitate a more informed discussion between legislators, law enforcement officers, and the general public about distracted driving and traffic safety.”
Let’s hope that this study is embraced by lawmakers and that these findings shed light on the danger to motorcyclists associated with handheld devices while driving.