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Bret Hanna
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Do Texting While Driving Bans Work?

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Texting while driving and other forms of distracted driving have increased exponentially with the explosion of new forms of inexpensive technology that keep us all connected 24/7. Unfortunately, if one is "connecting" while driving, the results can be devastating. The National Safety Council estimates that at least 1.6 million crashes each year are caused by drivers who are texting or talking on cell phones. The obvious solution? Banning cell phone use, of course. It may seem obvious, but a recent study shows that such bans don’t work.

The Highway Loss Data Institute, an organization funded by the insurance industry, recently released a study which indicates that distracted driving crashes increased in three of four states that have banned texting while driving. The four states, California, Minnesota, Washington and Louisiana, banned texting in 2008 or 2009. One theory is that bans may increase the risks associated with distracted driving because in addition to focusing on their phones, drivers may also be focused on hiding their use of their phones which increases the distraction level.

Some, such as Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, dispute the Institute’s findings and note that effective and consistent enforcement of bans is the key to declines his agency has seen since bans have been enacted. Regardless of whether that position is correct or whether bans are effective, no one seems to dispute that education is key to reducing the incidence of distracted driving accidents.

The National Safety Council offers a lot of resources in the safety arena. Among them is their "Safety on the Road" section of information. The main page states in part:

Driving is a privilege. A driver’s license gives you a certain level of freedom, but it also gives you an enormous amount of responsibility.

When behind the wheel this responsibility comes in many forms:

  • Wearing seatbelts
  • Driving sober
  • Focusing on the road
  • Driving defensively

NSC’s role is to not only educate drivers of all vehicle types, but to monitor crash trends. When drivers engage in behaviors that increase crash rates and risks, NSC takes action.

From there, you can dig into the distracted driving section and find information on the following:

Cognitive Distraction

Employer Policies

Focus on the Drive

Key Research

Public Education

State Laws

and

The A to Z of DD

At the end of the day, I suppose it does not matter whether the results of the four state study are the end of the story. People need to understand the dangers of distracted driving and take them to heart. Education and awareness are the only paths to achieve that goal, so those areas are where we should all be focusing our energy and attention.

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  1. Erik Wood says:
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    Business people need to ‘hit the ball over the net’. Teens consider it rude not to reply immediately to texts. Home schedules would grind to a halt without immediate communication. We are conditioned to pursue this level of efficiency but we are all supposed cease this behavior once we sit in our respective 5,000 pound pieces of steel and glass. Anyone can win an argument in a forum like this by saying “Just put the phone away” – but we can see its just not happening.

    I just read that 72% of teens text daily – many text more 3000 times a month. New college students no longer have email addresses! They use texting and Facebook – even with their professors. This text and drive issue is in its infancy and its not going away.

    I decided to do something about it after my three year old daughter was nearly run down right in front of me by a texting driver . Instead of a shackle that locks down phones and alienates the user (especially teens) I built a tool called OTTER that is a simple app for smartphones. I think if we can empower the individual then change will come to our highways now and not just our laws.

    Erik Wood, owner
    OTTER LLC
    OTTER app