In a bizarre twist, a new study by the Highway Loss Data Institute found that laws aimed at preventing drivers from text messaging may actually be increasing the risk of distracted driving car accidents.
As our Fort Myers accident attorneys reported last week on our Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, Florida has been chastised for being one of a dwindling number of states without a law that prohibits drivers from text messaging while behind the wheel.
The report, which was sponsored by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, examined statistics in four states with text-messaging bans and compared them to four states that have not prohibited drivers from text messaging.
“In a perverse twist, crashes increased in 3 of the 4 states we studied after bans were enacted,” says Adrian Lund, president of both HLDI and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. “It’s an indication that texting bans might even increase the risk of texting for drivers who continue to do so despite the laws.”
Like speeders who still speed, the study’s authors believe texting bans could be increasing accidents as drivers attempt to do a better job of hiding their activities.
“If drivers were disregarding the bans, then the crash patterns should have remained steady,” Lund said. “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.”
The effectiveness of the laws is an important question as the federal government and safety advocates continue to push text messaging bans and hand-held cell phones bans as a way to reduce the risk of serious and fatal car accidents. Last month, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that 5,474 motorists were killed and about 450,000 were injured in car accidents caused by distracted driving.
The IIHS was quick to caution that the report’s findings do not indicate that there is not significant risk associated with texting or using a cell phone while driving.
“There’s a crash risk associated with doing this. It’s just that bans aren’t reducing this crash risk,” Lund said. “The point of texting bans is to reduce crashes, and by this essential measure the laws are ineffective.”