Distracted driving remains a huge problem, which is why many states have implemented texting-while-driving bans. But do they work? Here are the facts.
If you’re a driver between the ages of 16 and 85 you have probably sent a text message while driving at least once. But multiple studies have found that texting – which falls under the broader category of distracted driving – can lead to catastrophic accidents. That’s because texting draws your eyes off the road, and even a split-second of inattention can trigger chaos on the road.
Because of this risk, many states have passed texting-while-driving bans that prohibit drivers from sending text messages while they are behind the wheel of a moving vehicle. But though there are now official fines for this behavior, the question remains: Have texting-while-driving bans made a difference and saved lives?
Before diving into whether texting bans have been effective, it’s important to sift through some texting-while-driving statistics.
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), 3,477 people died and 391,000 more were injured in auto accidents caused by distracted driving in 2015, the last year for which statistics are available. (1) That number was the highest in six years, and was 10 percent of the total number of auto accident fatalities in 2015.
And while distracted driving also includes activities such as eating, chatting with passengers, applying makeup or staring at a GPS screen, texting is the most common behavior in this category.
The NHTSA found that in 2015, drivers in the 16-to-24 age group had the highest percentage of text usage of all driving age groups.
That’s in line with a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which found that 42 percent of high school students in 2015 admitted to sending a text message or an email while driving. And doubling down on risk factors, this age group was also more likely to not wear a safety belt and to drive after consuming alcohol. (2)
Given these statistics, it’s no surprise that many states have passed texting-while-driving laws in an attempt to discourage distracted driving.
The National Conference of State Legislatures reported that 47 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands have texting-while-driving bans. Texas recently became the 48th state to pass a texting ban, which went into effect in September 1, 2017. (3) The law was finally passed after not making it through the legislative process during several sessions and being vetoed by then Governor Perry.
And though Missouri does not ban texting-while-driving, the state does not allow newly licensed drivers or teenage drivers to text and drive.
It’s important to remember, however, that these bans do not prohibit drivers from using voice-activated text, which some studies have found can cause the same level of distraction as manual texting.
Impact of Texting-While-Driving Bans
Unfortunately, the impact of texting-while-driving bans is murky at best.
For example a report in The Washington Post found that from 2000 to 2010, texting bans lowered teen auto accident fatalities by 11 percent. During that 10-year period, 31 states passed texting-while-driving bans.(4)
Among all other age groups, however, the study found that texting bans only lowered car wreck deaths by three percent.
And according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), a study of four states that had passed texting-while-driving bans found an increase in auto accidents in three of those four states. (5)
“Although texting bans are a good idea, it may take time before these laws become an accepted part of a driver’s mindset,” stated Dallas Car Wreck Attorney Amy Witherite, partner at Eberstein Witherite, LLP. “Until then, many drivers will continue to text and drive and play the law of averages that they won’t get caught.”
And in fact, the authors of the IIHS study also conducted a survey, which found that 45 percent of drivers ages 18 to 24 admitted to texting despite the ban.
Why Texting And Driving Is Bad
It isn’t difficult to understand why texting and driving is bad. Drivers who practice this behavior are far more likely to cause fatal accidents or accidents that cause serious injuries. The solution is simple: don’t text and drive.
And if you have suffered injuries in an accident caused by a driver who was texting-while-driving, you will need an experienced law firm, such as the team at 1-800-Car-Wreck to become your advocates.
“Our team doesn’t just focus on settlements,” stated Amy Witherite. “We are more concerned with the mental and physical well being of our clients. It’s the little things that count after a car accident, because these wrecks can bring your life to a complete stop. We keep life running and make sure that you get back on your feet.”