A new study in the Journal of Public Health shows that state laws banning texting have been successful at reducing deaths. The most effective are primary bans – which allow police officers to cite a person on texting alone.
Need for the Laws
This is good news, considering the amount of drivers who drive distracted seems to be holding strong. USA Today reports that, at any time, 660,000 U.S. drivers use handheld devices while driving during daylight, according to the National Occupant Protection Use Survey – and this number has remained relatively stable for the last several years.
Some other disturbing statistics:
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that distracted drivers killed over 3,000 people in 2012, and over 400,000 were injured;
- More than 50% of all drivers say they use a mobile device at least some of the time while they drive. This came from an Expedia survey of 1,000 drivers last spring, published in its “Road Rage Report.”
Journal of Public Health Study
The new study compared the effectiveness of four types of distracted driving laws. There are primarily enforced laws, which allow police to stop a driver solely for distracted driving violations. Then there are secondarily enforced laws, which mean an officer can’t pull you over solely for distraction, but if they otherwise stop you for speeding or some other violation and notice the distracted driving, they can then issue a ticket.
Two other variations on the laws concern age. Some laws target only young drivers, while others apply to drivers of all ages.
Here are their findings on the effectiveness:
“Primary texting bans were significantly associated with a 3 percent reduction in traffic fatalities among all age groups, which equates to an average of 19 deaths prevented per year in states with such bans.”
“Primarily enforced texting laws that banned only young drivers from texting were the most effective at reducing deaths among the 15- to 21-year-old cohort, with an associated 11 percent reduction in traffic fatalities among this age group in states with such bans.”
For those drivers 21-64, the best type of law to reduce fatalities was a law that banned the use of cellphones without hands-free technology: those bans lead to significant reductions in deaths among this age group. The study authors concluded: “Thus, although texting-while-driving bans were most effective for reducing traffic-related fatalities among young individuals, handheld bans appear to be most effective for adults.”
Interestingly, the data showed that states with secondarily enforced bans did not see any significant reductions in traffic fatalities. This finding seems to agree with the other statistics, that while drivers are still sneaking in distracted activities, knowing they could get a ticket curbs activity enough to save some lives.