FindLaw KnowledgeBasePublished: 2011-06-09
Studies have proven that sending text messages while driving is dangerous and can cause car accidents that result in injury or even death. In addition to hitting other cars, drivers who text also frequently have collisions with roadside objects, such as poles and traffic lights, by veering off the road as they type.
Armed with this information, over 30 states have already banned drivers from texting while operating a vehicle, and similar legislation is forthcoming or pending in most other states. It should logically follow that when laws are enacted to prohibit texting while driving, accidents caused by texting should decrease. Unfortunately so far, this has not seemed to be the case.
A report by the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), focusing on the laws in four states—California, Minnesota, Washington, and Louisiana—found that laws prohibiting texting while driving didn’t curb insurance claims related to car accidents, and in fact, claims actually increased in three of those states. Additionally, the study found no significant difference in the number of claims in states that have the bans versus states that do not currently have laws banning texting while driving.
While no definitive reason can be given as to why the ban on texting did not appear to work in those states, there is some speculation that police have a more difficult time catching people texting than they do seeing individuals talking with a phone to their ear. And drivers, aware of the ban, may hold the phone lower to keep it from officers’ prying eyes. This could increase the amount of time the driver is looking down at the phone instead of paying attention to the road around him, also increasing the danger of a crash. The new generation of car features may also contribute to the problem, as manufacturers are putting things, such as Twitter apps, on dashboards of cars, encouraging the use of communication technology while driving.
Anything that takes the driver’s attention away from the road and the drivers around him is dangerous, from putting on makeup, to eating, to smoking a cigarette. The findings of the HLDI may indicate that the way to most effectively address the problem of crashes caused by distracted drivers is not by singling out and banning one source of distraction, such as texting while driving, but by comprehensively considering all causes of distracted driving and treating them the same.