Motorcycle fatalities are down in states that have bans on handheld cell phone use.
Bans on cell phone use while driving are having a positive effect on reducing motorcycle fatality rates, according to a recent study by Florida Atlantic University and the University of Miami. AMERiders looks into cellphone bans and whether or not they could save lives.
The study actually intended to focus on overall traffic fatality rates involving cell phone use while driving. When it comes to car-to-car crashes, it’s not clear that partial or total bans on cell phone use while driving has had any effect on fatalities.
This could be explained by the high level of crash safety built into modern cars. It’s possible that the number of crashes may still be higher in states without cell phone bans, but the cars involved are doing a good job of protecting their occupants from death.
Such is not the case when it comes to motorcycles, however. To the researchers’ surprise, data from the study reflects that. States that have either a partial or total ban on cell phone use while driving have as much as an 11 percent reduction in motorcycle fatalities compared to states with no ban at all. This likely comes as no surprise to those of us who regularly battle inattentive traffic on two wheels, but it’s great to get some quantitative statistics to back up our subjective experiences.
The researchers of this study argue that policymakers should consider strengthening texting and handheld cell phone bans, as well as enforcement, to improve safety and save motorcyclist lives. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, using a hand-held cell phone while driving is illegal in just sixteen states plus Washington, D.C. as of December 2018.
Some states are in the process of implementing such bans, while others are being held up in the legislature. In my home of Florida, for example, a bill has been filed for the 2019 legislative session that would allow law-enforcement officers to pull over motorists for texting or talking on hand-held cell phones while driving.
Rep. Jackie Toledo, R-Tampa, filed a measure (HB 107) in December that would prohibit drivers from talking on cell phones that are not hands-free devices and would make enforcement a “primary” offense.
Rep. Jackie Toledo said “Currently, texting while driving in Florida is prohibited, but it is enforced as a “secondary” offense. That means motorists can only be cited if they are stopped for other infractions, such as running stop signs or speeding. “
A proposal in the 2018 session did not advance in the Senate because of concerns about issues such as minority drivers facing increased racial profiling. SB 76 which is similar to Toledo’s new proposal has been filed by Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, for the 2019 session, that starts in March.
Under their bills, drivers would be able to communicate on hands-free devices. Also, motorists would be allowed to use hand-held devices for such purposes as reporting emergencies, getting safety-related information or for navigation.
In Massachusetts, its Senate approved a cell phone ban in June of 2017 the law has yet to pass because the legislation is concerned it would result in increased traffic stops of black and Hispanic drivers. At this time the bill is remaining “under consideration” as per DeLeo spokeswoman Whitney Ferguson.
These are examples of the difficulty of passing a hand-held cell phone ban in just two states. Perhaps this study will lend some credibility to the claims of improved safety with a ban, particularly when it comes to motorcyclists, and help get more such laws passed.
If you think that a cell phone ban could save your life or you are in favor of having one in your state make sure that you contact your congressman or woman to help them more voices can help.
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Sources: EurekAlert, IIHS, Boston Globe, Orlando Weekly