Do Texting Bans Actually Save Lives?
Anyone who has raised a teenager knows that talking to them can be a one-sided proposition: teens are not disposed to listen to grownups.
Yet there is one message that really does need to get through: Do Not Text While Driving. Recognizing that parental and even peer pressure isn’t enough, many states have enacted laws that forbid texting and other forms of distracted driving.
But do the bans do any good at all? Have they saved any lives? Or do people – particularly young people – just ignore the laws and text away?
Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health have studied how anti-texting-while-driving laws affect road deaths. The results, as published in the American Journal of Public Health, are encouraging.
First, we must point out that different states have different laws: some states ban all phone use, others just handheld cell phone use, and others just texting. Moreover, some states only prohibit young drivers from texting.
That said, the study showed that texting bans reduced deaths by about 3 percent – about 19 deaths – in states that imposed them.
The most successful laws? Ones that specifically banned people aged 15 to 21 from texting: they reduced traffic fatalities by 11 percent. Older drivers, for some reason, did not see the same reduction, though all age groups benefited to some degree from the ban.
Enforcement mattered too. States in which police could only cite drivers for texting if they stopped them for another reason first – say, a malfunctioning taillight – did not see any reductions in deaths. The fatalities went down when police were able to stop drivers specifically for texting while driving.
Studies like this aren’t just for our information. They provide legislators with the insight they need to do their job. Now that we know that texting bans prevent deaths, it’s up to our country’s lawmakers to step up and ban teens from texting while driving nationwide.