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US Study Shows Cell Phone Laws Save Motorcyclists’ Lives

A study conducted by professors from Florida Atlantic University (FAU) and the University of Miami (UM) discovered that laws against use of cell phones and other electronic devices have greatly reduced the fatality rate for motorcyclists.

Professors Gulcin Gumus of FAU and Michael T. French of UM looked at government data from 2005 through 2015 from all of America’s fifty states to try and find any correlation between restricting handheld cellphone use and motorcycle fatalities. They merged their gathered data with state-specific features, laws that ban/curb the use of handheld devices, and other policies. The two professors then computed how effective strict/moderate/weak regulations were compared to states with zero measures implemented.

“When we focus specifically on motorcycles, we find that these laws are having a major impact in reducing deaths among motorcycle riders,” said Gumus.

The result: ‘strict’ laws lowered motorcyclist deaths by 8.8 percent, while ‘moderate’ laws led to a 5.5 percent reduction. Looking at motorcyclist fatalities in multi-vehicle crashes only, those numbers go up to 11 percent and 7.7 percent, respectively.

Gumus and French took into account the 36 states that had weak or non-existing laws and posited that if these states had strict laws like the rest, about 173 fewer bikers would have lost their lives in 2015.

“Every day about nine Americans are killed and more than 1,000 are injured in traffic crashes that involve distracted drivers,” said French, who is also an avid motorcycle rider. “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.”

The professors contend that lawmakers in the states with ineffective laws against texting/calling should take steps to improve safety and save lives, especially among motorcyclists.

“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,” French added. “Hopefully these results will facilitate a more informed discussion between legislators, law enforcement officers, and the general public about distracted driving and traffic safety.”

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