Laws banning texting while driving may prompt an increase in road crashes, says new research reported by USA Today. The findings come amid a heightened national debate over distracted driving. “Texting bans haven’t reduced crashes at all,” says Adrian Lund, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, whose research arm studied the effectiveness of the laws.
Thirty states and the District of Columbia ban texting while driving; 11 of the laws were passed this year. The assertion that those efforts are futile will be a major issue at this week’s annual meeting of the Governors Highway Safety Association in Kansas City. Researchers at the Highway Loss Data Institute compared rates of collision insurance claims in four states – California, Louisiana, Minnesota, and Washington – before and after they enacted texting bans. Crash rates rose in three of the states after bans were enacted. The Highway Loss group theorizes that drivers try to evade police by lowering their phones when texting, increasing the risk by taking their eyes even further from the road and for a longer time. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood disputes the findings. “Between 2005 and 2008, distracted driving-related fatalities jumped from 10 peercent to 16 percent of all traffic fatalities,” he says. “In 2009, for the first time in four years, distracted driving fatalities stopped rising, remaining at 16 percent.”