Are Distracted Driving Laws Saving Lives?

Mixed Results Amid A Flurry Of States Banning Texting While Driving

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been focusing a large effort on reducing the number of distracted drivers, with special focus on banning texting and handheld phone use. The campaign is in full swing, but some data suggests that recent laws banning handheld devices and texting are not solving the problem.

Texting has by far received the most attention from state legislatures. Currently 30 states ban text messaging for all drivers, and 12 enacted those laws in 2010. Only 8 states ban cellphone use for all drivers.

Data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) indicates that a person is four times more likely to get into an accident while using a handheld phone. Around 18 percent of distracted driving fatalities involved cellphone use, with the death toll at nearly 1,000 for 2009, the most recent available.

Recent Legislation May Not Help Distracted Driving

Not everyone agrees on the efficacy of cellphone laws. The IIHS claims the laws do not reduce crashes, and some data supports that claim. Despite a rapid increase in cellphone use since 2005, the NHTSA has not seen an increase in crashes. Additionally, three of the four states the IIHS followed after enacting texting laws saw an increase in insurance claims for accidents.

The IIHS indicated the difficulty in enforcing existing texting bans might account for the failure to see positive results, and does not recommend texting while driving.

Even if handheld phone use decreases while driving, banning texting and handheld phones may not be a cure-all for distracted driving. Some distracted driving advocates claim that hands- cellphone use is as dangerous as handheld phones. Also, distracted driving accidents include talking with passengers, eating and drinking, and grooming.

Distracted Driving Still Dangerous

While the focus and success of legislation banning handheld cellphone use and texting is perhaps up for debate, the danger that distracted driving poses is not. Whether a driver is distracted by texting or a fellow passenger, by eating or talking on a handheld phone, distracted driving causes accidents and costs lives. If you have been injured in a car accident involving distracted driving, you should contact an attorney immediately, as you may be able to get recovery for damages caused by the distracted driver's negligence.