Oh my, this is disturbing information: bans on texting while driving may actually increase risk! That was the story reported USA Today recently. The key point of the article is that drivers may try to hide their texting by holding their phones lower, below window level, and looking that far down makes it harder to see what’s happening in traffic. Of course I don’t think that’s reason enough to repeal bans on texting while driving, but it does make you wonder about the effectiveness of such bans. Here are excerpts from the article.
“Texting bans haven’t reduced crashes at all,” says Adrian Lund, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, whose research arm studied the effectiveness of the laws.
Researchers at the Highway Loss Data Institute compared rates of collision insurance claims in four states — California, Louisiana, Minnesota and Washington — before and after they enacted texting bans. Crash rates rose in three of the states after bans were enacted.
The Highway Loss group theorizes that drivers try to evade police by lowering their phones when texting, increasing the risk by taking their eyes even further from the road and for a longer time.
The findings “call into question the way policymakers are trying to address the problem of distracted-driving crashes,” Lund says, calling for a strategy that goes beyond cellphones to hit other behaviors such as eating and putting on makeup. “They’re focusing on a single manifestation of distracted driving and banning it,” he says.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, disputes the findings. “Between 2005 and 2008, distracted driving-related fatalities jumped from 10% to 16% of all traffic fatalities,” he says. “In 2009, for the first time in four years, distracted driving fatalities stopped rising, remaining at 16%. … Tough laws are the first step and enforcement must be next. We know that anti-distracted-driving laws can be enforced effectively.”
Last year in the USA, 5,474 people were killed and another 448,000 injured in crashes involving distracted driving, defined as operating a vehicle in a careless or inattentive manner, the government says.
Lack of enforcement is a likely factor if bans are ineffective, GHSA spokesman Jonathan Adkins says.