As has been extensively detailed on our Pittsburgh personal injury blog, distracted driving has increasingly become a major focus of lawmakers at both the state and federal level. Earlier this year, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood called texting while driving a "national epidemic," calling for a nationwide federal ban on talking or texting behind the wheel. Locally, Pennsylvania legislators recently strengthened the state's distracted driving law by making texting while driving a primary offense.
Pennsylvania is not alone: 38 states currently have laws that prohibit or restrict cell phone use behind the wheel. But in a new editorial, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette employee James Hilston says that has been no correlating decline in motor vehicle accidents, and that texting bans are therefore ineffective and unnecessary.
Researchers have repeatedly found that cell phone use significantly increases the likelihood of a car crash. For example, one recent study concluded that a driver who is dialing a cell phone is nearly three times more likely to get in an accident than a driver who is not using a mobile device, and a texting truck driver is 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash than a non-texting driver.
Hilston does not dispute that distracted driving is dangerous. However, he says, the issue is not so cut and dry. As the use of cell phones has increased, the car accident rate has declined. If texting while driving is really an 'epidemic,' he asks, shouldn't the opposite be happening?
Further, states with texting bans have actually seen an increase in car crashes following the ban's taking effect. It is possible that drivers are trying to hide their behavior by putting their phones in their laps, causing them to take their eyes off the road for even longer. But it is more likely, Hilston says, that texting bans simply don't work.
What do you think? Are texting bans effective, or are they unnecessary?
Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Texting while driving: not the problem," James Hilston, June 18, 2012