A controversial new report questions whether banning texting while driving makes the roads safer.
"Texting bans haven't reduced crashes at all. In a perverse twist, crashes increased in three of the four states we studied after bans were enacted. It's an indication that texting bans might even increase the risk of texting for drivers who continue to do so despite the laws," Adrian Lund, president of HLDI and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, said.
The report, does however, cite Hartford as one city where it's led to a significant reduction in phone use behind the wheel.
HLDI'S new findings about texting, together with the organization's previous finding that hand-held phone bans didn't reduce crashes "call into question the way policymakers are trying to address the problem of distracted driving crashes," Lund said.
Lund said that drivers in states with bans might be moving their phones out of sight while they text, "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.”
HLDI researchers calculated rates of collision claims for vehicles up to nine years old during the months immediately before and after driver texting was banned in California (January 2009), Louisiana (July 2008), Minnesota (August 2008), and Washington (January 2008).
Comparable data was collected in nearby states where texting laws weren't substantially changed during the time span of the study. This controlled for possible changes in collision claim rates unrelated to the bans - changes in the number of miles driven due to the economy, seasonal changes in driving patterns, etc.
Transportation officials point out the bans are still new and require solid laws, good publicity and enforcement to succeed.