Watch for motorcycles! The effects of texting and handheld bans on motorcyclist fatalities

French, M. T. and Gumus, G.

Despite the relatively small proportion of motorcycles among all motor vehicles and miles driven, motorcyclists account for a large proportion of traffic fatalities within the United States. Using state-specific traffic fatality data from 2005-2015 (N=550), this research examines how motorcyclists may be vulnerable to the risks posed by other distracted drivers. Data was collected from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) and merged with state-specific crash characteristics, texting and handheld device laws, and other traffic policies. Data was used to estimate the effects of handheld and texting bans on both motorcyclist and non-motorcyclist fatalities. In 2015, the final year of data collection, fourteen states had already adopted strong texting and handheld bans for all drivers.

Findings indicate that motorcyclists are at an increased risk of being a victim of distracted drivers. This is primarily the result of multiple-vehicle collisions between motorcycles and other vehicles as opposed to single-vehicle crashes. In these crashes, it is often not the motorcyclist who was driving while distracted. Results suggest strong texting/handheld bans have a significant negative effect on motorcyclist fatality rates, with effect sizes ranging from 5.5% to 10.3%. Lastly, if all states adopted strong texting and handheld bans, approximately 173 motorcyclist fatalities could be prevented annually. Ultimately these results provide evidence that texting and handheld bans are effective in protecting motorcycle drivers.

French, M. T., & Gumus, G. (2018). Watch for motorcycles! The effects of texting and handheld bans on motorcyclist fatalities. Social Science & Medicine, 216, 81-87.