Thursday, October 29, 2009

Public Policies and Motorcycle Safety

Two universities in Florida recently analyzed the effect of public policies in reducing motorcycle injuries and deaths. The goal was to estimate the effects of alcohol and traffic policies on fatal and non-fatal injuries. Several striking conclusions were seen: Universal Helmet Laws About 489 lives could have been saved if helmet laws were in effect nation-wide in 2005. The large magnitude of this effect was unexpected by the authors of the study. Helmet laws dominated all other traffic safety policies, highlighting the importance of wearing a helmet to minimize the consequences of a crash. Mandatory Rider Education Programs Programs for training and educating new motorcyclists reduced non-fatal motorcycle injuries, according to result of the study. Higher Speed Limits Interestingly, higher speed limits on rural interstate highways worked in the opposite direction for the non-fatal injury rate. Fewer injuries resulted from higher speeds. One possible explanation may be that states with the higher speed limits also have more dangerous road conditions, so that crashes more often resulted in deaths, rather than non-fatal injuries. Another factor may be the characteristics of rural states, with less traffic congestion, allowing higher speed limits. License Revocation Policies Having laws that revoke or suspend the operators license of traffic offenders actually resulted in higher rates of non-fatal injuries. No explanation was given for this unexpected analysis. The study was unable to account for other important factors that vary from state to state, such as enforcement policies and advocacy groups. The researchers intend to focus now on how the universal helmet policies reduce fatalities and whether the effects change over time. Read more...