Texting while driving bans fail to put a dent in auto accidents

texting drivers

A new study shows that texting while driving laws have had virtually no impact on auto accident statistics. Image: Thinkstock

Texting while driving is prohibited by law in several states. But a new study found no decrease in car crashes in those states after texting-while-driving laws took effect. In some states the number of crashes actually increased. The Department of Transportation, in the midst of an anti-texting while driving campaign, called the results of the study misleading. Some driving safety experts said results will become evident with better enforcement of the law. Others think the law leads to even more hazardous texting practices by drivers trying to avoid detection.

Texting while driving continues to kill

Texting while driving increased auto fatalities by more than 16,000 between 2001 and 2007, according to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health. But ABC News reports that researchers at the Highway Loss Data Institute found no reduction in auto accidents after texting while driving laws were enacted. Researchers calculated rates of crashes and insurance claims before and after texting while driving was banned in California, Louisiana, Minnesota and Washington. In three states, crashes actually showed a slight increase.

Driving ban may encourage more risky texting

Virtually everyone agrees that texting while driving is dangerous, but the study shows that cellphone laws do not equal safer roads. The Christian Science Monitor reports that in all four states in the study, accidents increased among drivers 25 and under– the age group most associated with texting while driving. The researchers suggested that the law compels texting drivers to hold their phones lower to avoid being seen, which significantly increases the level of distraction. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood called the study “misleading.” He released a statement saying research showed that distracted driving laws could reduce crashes. But Adrian Lund, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, said laws focusing on a single aspect of distracted driving ignore the entire scope of distractions and rely on a ban to solve the whole problem.

Technology, not laws, could reduce risk

Law or no law, Americans are going to text while driving. Jared Newman at PC World thinks technology is a better solution than laws that are ignored. He mentions Google Voice for Android that includes text message dictation, and the Dragon Dictation app for Apple’s iPhone. Automobile innovations like MyFord Touch, he writes, let drivers keep their eyes and the road and their hands on the wheel as they use their phones. Instead of passing unenforceable laws, perhaps the government could promote collaboration between automakers and technology companies, as well as increase public awareness that such options are available.

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