Distracted Driving Laws Are Pointless…

Over 42 states and the District of Columbia have passed some form of distracted driving law aimed at countering the scourge of “texting-while-driving.” Of these states, 35 ban all drivers from texting, while seven states (Alabama, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and West Virginia) only ban novice drivers from texting.

Opponents of these laws often argue that these laws are pointless and they are right. Distracted driving laws are pointless…without proper enforcement.

Researchers at the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) found in 2010 that texting bans didn’t reduce the number of crashes, they increased them.

Texting bans haven’t reduced crashes at all. In a perverse twist, crashes increased in 3 of the 4 states we studied after bans were enacted. It’s an indication that texting bans might even increase the risk of texting for drivers who continue to do so despite the laws,” says Adrian Lund, president of both HLDI and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

At the Safe America Foundation we are big supporters of anti-texting and distracted driving laws. That said, we know having anti-texting and distracted driving laws on the books is not enough. What’s needed is a strong a commitment by local law enforcement to consistently ticket people who break these laws. This isn’t just “conventional wisdom,” it’s not just us saying this because we believe it sounds like common sense, it’s a fact.

In April 2010, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) launched the “Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other” enforcement program in Hartford, Connecticut and Syracuse, New York. NHTSA released their research brief on the results of this program in July by Fix-IT and they speak for themselves. As mentioned at Distraction.gov:

In Syracuse, both handheld cell phone use and texting behind the wheel declined by one-third.

In Hartford, where researchers initially identified drivers talking on their cell phones at twice the frequency (which left more room for improvement), there was a 57 percent drop in handheld use and texting behind the wheel dropped by nearly three-quarters.

The data is clear, Distracted Driving laws aren’t pointless, but without real enforcement these laws only make the roads more dangerous. If we’re serious about addressing the dangers of distracted driving, getting lawmakers to pass legislation isn’t enough. We need to urge our local law enforcement leaders to begin enforcing these laws in earnest.

About SAFadmin

The Safe America Foundation has roots in injury prevention when, in 1992, the Travelers Foundation underwrote a $1 million campaign to counter a significant increase in infant fatalities in car crashes. While always remaining committed to the issues of injury prevention, the Foundation focused additional effort in another direction in 2001. Preparedness for a national catastrophe, whether man-made or natural, took on new meaning after 9/11, and the foundation responded. Today the Foundation partners with corporate, governmental, public and private sector organizations, and other non-profits to improve the safety awareness and preparedness of Americans nationwide.
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3 Responses to Distracted Driving Laws Are Pointless…

  1. Cash Cooper says:

    The problem with these laws is drivers are still using their phones but have lowered them so police can’t see the phone and ticket them. This causes the driver’s eyes be even further from the direction they should be looking… thus causing more collisions.

    I agree about enforcement. They have to ticket enough to change behavior.

  2. Cash your absolutely correct. The problem you mention is in the IIHS study that I’ve linked to in the article. I just didn’t want the post to get too long otherwise I would have mentioned it, but thank you for bringing it up.

  3. jld4621 says:

    It is interesting is that laws banning cell phone use while driving also exempt police and other emergency service personnel. It’s rare for me to pass a police car and not see the cop yacking away on a hand held device! Emergency Services have a higher level of distraction than the ordinary driver. Do you want them on a cell phone while they are using lights and sirens? Also the police officer who pulls someone over for violating a cell phone ban is probably going to be running the driver’s license number through their laptop computer! We recently had a case where a police car collided into the back of truck injuring the officer and his prisoner. The investigating officer told another first responder that the cop was using his laptop computer at the time. Yet, the cause of the accident was never released to the media.

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