Ban Texting and Driving All You Want, But Don’t Expect Results

By  |  Friday, January 29, 2010 at 10:37 am

The latest fad among governments is to pass legislation that ban texting while driving, as evidenced by the growing list of states with anti-cell phone laws. But if a new study just released by the Highway Loss Data Institute means anything, these laws don’t change much.

HLDI found that crash rates are not decreasing as a result of these laws.”The laws aren’t reducing crashes, even though we know that such laws have reduced hand-held phone use, and several studies have established that phoning while driving increases crash risk,” the group’s president Adrian Lund said. This isn’t to say that cell phone use while driving doesn’t increase crash risk — HLDI points out several studies that showed an four-fold increase there — but it isn’t stopping crashes either.

It seems as if the group is shocked by the study’s results, saying it expected to see a decrease in crash occurrences. Maybe the findings of this study are indicative that these laws are just unnecessary legislation that really doesn’t do much to contain the problem. This might be a case where good old fashioned education may play a bigger part in solving the problem, no?

“Whatever the reason, the key finding is that crashes aren’t going down where hand-held phone use has been banned,” Lund says. “This finding doesn’t auger well for any safety payoff from all the new laws that ban phone use and texting while driving.”

Seems like the HLDI agrees.


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2 Comments For This Post

  1. MLA Says:

    This article, most other recaps of the study, and the study itself all omit one obvious point: none of these laws bans mobile-phone use altogether; they simply ban holding the phone in your hand. Besides the fact that the laws themselves are rarely being enforced — I see just as many people here in CA holding a phone to their ear these days as I did last year — may of those who have stopped holding a phone while driving are simply using a wired or wireless headset. And the research has shown that using a headset is essentially *no* less distracting or dangerous than actually holding the phone.

    The real takeaway here isn’t that “anti-phone bans don’t work”; it’s that they ban the wrong thing and aren’t enforced.

  2. Rob Says:

    Such laws are basically stupid. Unless people expect to be pulled over on a regular basis for doing things like holding a phone to their ear or texting, they won’t stop. It’s no different from DRM or gun laws: making things painful for those behaving themselves has very little effect on those that will misbehave anyway.

    There are people who cannot walk and chew gum at the same time, to use an old cliche. There are, likewise, people who cannot drive and do anything else. However, suggesting that conversing on a hands-free phone is dangerous while driving is ludicrous on its face. The same people would have difficulty conversing with a passenger while driving.

    Driver training, education, and testing must be improved to produce better, safer drivers. Police must get in the habit of pulling over those that speed or otherwise drive unsafely. (In greater Philadelphia, including NJ, most policemen seem blind to what occurs daily.) Until those changes occur, driving is dangerous and no laws will improve the matter.