Texting While Driving Laws Don't Work

Rich Tehrani : Communications and Technology Blog - Tehrani.com
Rich Tehrani
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Texting While Driving Laws Don't Work

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Let me start by saying texting-while-driving is dangerous yet it is something many continue to do. Moreover, government legislators who try to stop bad behavior, as usual think not of the unintended consequences of their actions. Instead they feel good about themselves when they pass laws - even when these regulations don't work.

Here is the challenge... People ideally text by placing their phones high-up above the steering wheel so they can see their device and the road at the same time. Once a law is passed banning such actions, people then move the location of the phone below the field of view of others on the road. In other words, instead of having the road in their field of view, they they focus on their crotch when sending a message.

Mother Jones in fact has a piece today detailing how texting bans do not reduce the amount of accident fatalities in a state over the long-term.

Here is an excerpt:

No one denies the dangers of texting while driving. In fact, 95 percent of AAA survey (PDF) respondents said texting behind the wheel was a "very" serious threat to their personal safety. But 35 percent of the same respondent group admitted to having read a text or email while driving in the last 30 days. Because Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 send and receive an average of 88 texts per day, and American drivers average nearly 40 miles a day, it makes sense that the Department of Transportation estimates that at any given daylight moment, approximately 660,000 people are "using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices" while driving.

State governments have attempted to curb the formation of this lethal habit. Forty-six states have enacted some kind of texting ban, with penalties ranging from a $20 ticket to a $10,000 fine and a year in prison (hey, Alaska!). Unfortunately, enforcement has seen limited success, in part because of how difficult detection is. Likewise, actual cell phone related fatality statistics are vastly underreported for a number of reasons, experts say. And, unless a driver involved in a crash admits to it, investigators may have no reason to suspect cell phone use.

The most effective bans, Adams said, were those enacted earliest. In Washington, where legislators took action in 2007, "people actually took it seriously," at least for a time. Yet the efficacy of that ban decreased with each successive year. Likely, Adams said, because people heard "reports that these things weren't being enforced." In those states slower to legislate, any dip in fatalities evened out within several months.

 

 



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