A study published this week by researchers at the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) in the USA has found that laws banning texting while driving aren't reducing the number of accidents. Instead, there appears to be a slight increase in the number of collisions.
The HLDI survey looked at insurance claims in California, Louisiana, Minnesota and Washington before and after 'texting bans' were introduced. (Most US states now have similar laws). Data was also collected in nearby states where text/driving laws remained relatively unchanged.
Month-to-month changes in the rates of collision claims didn't alter much from before the bans to after the bans were put in place – and the patterns didn't differ much from those in nearby states that didn't ban texting. Any changes in crash rates showed an accident increase in the text-ban states, from 1% more crashes in Washington to around 9% in Minnesota. Younger drivers – those more likely to send SMS text messages when driving – were more likely to have accidents following the ban, with a 12% increase noted in California.
The HDLI's survey also indicates that many drivers, especially younger ones, are ignoring the bans, with 45% of 18-24 year-olds in states with a text/driving ban saying they were breaking the law.
Adrian Lund, president of the HLDI, said "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. The point of texting bans is to reduce crashes, and by this essential measure the laws are ineffective."
"If drivers were disregarding the bans, then the crash patterns should have remained steady. So clearly drivers did respond to the bans somehow, and what they might have been doing was moving their phones down and out of sight when they texted, in recognition that what they were doing was illegal. This could exacerbate the risk of texting by taking drivers' eyes further from the road and for a longer time."