Study: Texting While Driving Bans are Ineffective

So you're driving along minding the rules of the road when all of a sudden some moron in the other lane weaves in front of you. Is he drunk? Did he suffer a stroke? Nope, he's just firing off a text message. You could flip him off, but unless you have an appropriate emoticon for that, and his cell phone number, he'll never see it.

Because of situations like this -- and worse -- most states have had the good sense to ban texting while driving. It'd be naive to think a law prohibiting an activity would stop it altogether, but surely it's helping, right? Maybe not. According to a new study by researchers at the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), laws against texting while driving have done nothing to reduce the number of text-related crashes. Surprising? Chew on this -- since these laws went into effect, the number of insurance claims filed under collision coverage have actually went up!

In Minnesota, the collision rate went up 9 percent after the texting while driving ban went into effect.

"Texting bans haven't reduced crashes at all. In a perverse twist, crashes increased in 3 of the 4 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," says Adrian Lund, president of both HLDI and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

You could chalk it up to coincidence or just disregard the study altogether, but there's actually a plausible reason why bans on texting while driving might actually be causing the crash rate to go up.

"If drivers were disregarding the bans, then the crash patterns should have remained steady," Lund explains. "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."

Lund's assessment jives with recent survey results, which show that many drivers, and in particularly young and inexperienced ones, admit to disregarding these bans. Almost half of all drivers ages 18-24 years old said they still text while driving, partly because they didn't feel like there was a high risk of getting caught.

Do the results surprise you?