There are currently 30 states that have made it illegal for motor vehicle operators to text while driving a vehicle. The bans were made in an effort to reduce vehicle crashes. But, since texting is only one known element of distracted driving, some people have long questioned what the effectiveness of such laws would be on accidents related to distracted driving.
A new study by the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) now shows that there have not been any reductions in crash statistics following texting bans. Contrarily, following texting bans, the study found that there is actually a slim increase in how many collision coverage insurance claims are filed for crash-related damage. The findings were very similar to a previous HLDI study concerning driving and handheld cell phone usage, which ultimately found that banning handheld cell phone use during driving didn’t decrease the number of vehicle crashes.
The new HLDI study looked at insurance claims for vehicles less than ten-years-old during the months prior to and following the July 2008 texting ban in Louisiana, January 2008 texting ban in Washington, August 2008 texting ban in Minnesota, and January 2009 texting ban in California. To ensure that collision claim changes not related to texting bans, such as from seasonal driving pattern changes, were controlled, the claims made in the above four states were compared with those made in nearby states that hadn’t substantially altered their texting laws during the time frame of the study.
When the data was compared, HLDI found that banning texting while driving hasn’t reduced the number of vehicle crashes. In fact, crash numbers actually increased after texting bans in three of the four states involved in the study. The data could be an indication that texting bans create an added risk from drivers that recognize texting is illegal, but continue texting anyway. These drivers might attempt to hide their phone from the view of law enforcement, thereby lengthening the amount of time and distance that their eyes are taken from the road. The texting and handheld cell phone ban findings from the HLDI studies could also indicate that singling out and banning one source of distraction over another isn’t an effective approach to address the overall problem of vehicle crashes caused by distracted driving.