Are Texting Laws Really Working in Preventing Deaths?
Primary enforcement laws against texting and driving appear to be working in helping to reduce the number of vehicle accidents and fatalities, according to a recent study by the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). The study found that in states that had primary texting bans, there was a three percent decrease in fatalities, an average of 19 lives saved every year. In data collected by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) in 2011, 31 percent of drivers between the ages of 18 to 64 admitted to either reading or sending text messages or emails while they were driving within the prior 30 days of the survey. That year, there were 3,331 deaths and 387,000 injuries in accidents caused by distracted drivers. The laws among states all vary. There are states which have banned texting while driving for all drivers, while others have only banned texting for younger drivers. In some states, the ban is a primary enforcement law, which means that law enforcement does not need another reason to stop a driver suspected of texting and driving. However, in other states, the ban is classified as a secondary enforcement law. This means that a police officer needs another reason, such as running a stop sign, brake light out, etc., in order for the officer to be able to stop you. It is because of this inconsistency in laws that the study was needed, said lead researcher Dr. Alva O. Ferdinand. “Very little is known about whether laws banning texting while driving have actually improved roadway safety. Further, given the considerable variation in the types of laws that states have passed and whom they ban from what, it was necessary to determine which types of laws are most beneficial in improving roadway safety,” she said. For this study, the research team used data collected from 2000 through 2010 by Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), which included:
- Primary enforcement laws were “significantly associated” with a three percent decrease in distracted driving traffic accident fatalities. This statistic applied to all age groups.
- Primary enforcement laws that were specifically for young drivers reduced fatalities by 11 percent for the age groups of 15 to 21 year olds. These bans appear to be the most effective for young drivers.
- States which only had secondary enforcement laws had no decrease in the number of fatalities from accidents caused by texting.