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

Soc Sci Med. 2018 Nov;216:81-87. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2018.09.032. Epub 2018 Sep 24.


Motorcyclists account for a much higher proportion of traffic fatalities relative to the share of motorcycles among all motor vehicles and vehicle miles driven in the U.S. In this paper, we posit that motorcyclists may be particularly vulnerable to the risks of distracted driving by others. Specifically, we examine whether state-specific texting/handheld bans significantly influence motorcyclist fatalities in the U.S. We use state-specific traffic fatality data in the U.S. (2005-2015, N = 550) from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) merged with state-specific characteristics, texting/handheld device laws, and other traffic policies. Although research is mixed on the effectiveness of texting/handheld bans for overall traffic fatalities, our findings indicate that motorcyclists are at elevated risk of being a victim of distracted driving and thus could greatly benefit from these policies. This result is driven mainly by multiple-vehicle crashes (e.g., car hitting motorcycle) as opposed to single-vehicle crashes. Policy makers should consider strengthening texting/handheld bans along with their enforcement to improve safety and save lives, especially among motorcyclists. .

Keywords: Distracted driving; FARS; Handheld device; Motorcycles; Texting; Traffic fatalities; United States.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / mortality
  • Automobile Driving / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Community Participation / methods
  • Humans
  • Motorcycles / statistics & numerical data*
  • Text Messaging / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Text Messaging / standards*