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.