Photo of a person texting while driving.
Do the new laws regarding text messaging and driving really help? CC by mrJasonWeaver/Flickr

It’s illegal to text while driving in many states. But a new study found no decrease in car crashes in those states after texting-while-driving laws took effect. Traffic accidents, strangely enough, went up in some states with the ban. Perhaps viewing it as an obstacle to its nationwide campaign against texting while driving, the study was termed misleading by the Department of Transportation. Traffic safety experts have said that whether the laws are effective depends on adequate enforcement. Some who disagree think the laws contribute further to the problem. To avoid being seen by police, texting drivers resort to ever more hazardous practices.

Texting ban is toothless

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. However, research by the Highway Loss Data Institute, as reported by ABC News, discovered that traffic accidents remained constant despite the new laws. The HLDI documented crash frequency and insurance claims immediately prior to and directly following the passage of anti-texting laws in Washington, Minnesota, Louisiana and California. A perceptible increase in crashes emerged in three states.

Bans may drive texters to further distraction

Most believe that texting behind the wheel is irresponsible. But bans alone will not make the streets safer, as the study indicates. In particular, the texting generation is impervious to the ban, according to the Christian Science Monitor, which pointed out that in the study crashes increased for drivers 25 and younger in all four states. The likely explanation: to avoid getting a ticket, drivers are holding their devices out of sight, which makes it harder to pay attention while driving. The study was panned by Department of Transportation secretary Ray Lahood. He released a statement saying research showed that distracted driving laws could reduce crashes. However, Adrian Lund, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, said trying to enforce a ban on a single practice as a solution leaves out a number of contributing factors that exacerbate the problem.

Considering a different approach from laws

The ineffectualness of distracted driving laws has shown that people are going to keep on texting regardless. Given that reality, Jared Newman at PC world offers a suggestion. Better technology could increase safety more than merely passing laws. Products that texting drivers should consider include Dragon Dictation for iPhone and Google Voice for Android. There are also technological innovations built into the latest vehicles. Newman mentioned MyFord Touch, a hands-free communications technology that minimizes distracted driving. Helping make the public more aware of these technology solutions could do more to reduce crashes, rather than passing laws that are largely ignored.


ABC News:

Christian Science Monitor:

PC World:

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