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Status Report, Vol. 39, No. 2 | February 7, 2004 Subscribe

In other highway safety news …

Older motorcyclists in Germany

Deaths of riders ages 35-45 have increased 140 percent in Germany since 1995. Deaths of riders 45 to 55 years old have increased 170 percent. While overall motorcyclist deaths haven't changed much, the shifting demographics of riders in Germany is leading to far more deaths among older riders and fewer among younger ones. This mirrors a trend in the United States, where deaths of cyclists 40 and older have increased 150 percent since 1990 (see Status Report special issue: motorcycle deaths, Jan. 12, 2002). Much of the shift can be traced to rising numbers of older riders. The median age of bikers killed on U.S. roads is about 36, up from 27 in 1990.

Constitutionality of photo enforcement

A North Carolina court has ruled that photo enforcement of traffic laws doesn't violate constitutional rights. A driver cited for running a signal monitored by a red light camera in High Point, North Carolina, sued the city, claiming the automated enforcement procedures violated his constitutional right to due process and equal protection. The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina ruled against the driver, finding the automated enforcement program didn't violate state or federal constitutions.

Belt use and phone use

Researchers observing the use of hand-held cell phones at 40 Michigan locations found that drivers using phones were buckled up about 76 percent of the time. This compares with about 83 percent of drivers who weren't phoning. The overall phone use rate was about 3 percent, which is consistent with national estimates (see "Hand-held cell phone use goes back up in N.Y., despite year-old ban," Aug. 26, 2003). While the effect of phone use on crash risk isn't fully understood, it's likely to increase the risk. Research has shown that people who don't buckle up are more likely to exhibit other risk-taking behaviors like speeding and heavy use of alcohol. Adding the distraction of phone use would be expected to increase such drivers' crash risk.

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