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Texting, cell phone bans not working

September 17, 2011
By DAVE WERNER ( , Franklin County Traffic Safety Board

New York state has laws banning the use of portable electronic devices and hand-held cell phone use while driving, but have these laws reduced the crashes resulting from these distractions? As well intentioned as they are, these laws haven't accomplished what the legislators intended.

Information published by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), based on surveys by the Highway Loss Data Institute shows that the frequency of insurance claims filed for vehicle damage sustained in crashes actually increased in three of the four states that were studied, after laws took effect that prohibited drivers from texting. In fact, texting bans might even increase the risk associated with texting by drivers, who continue to do so despite the laws. This is consistent with those of a previous study that found banning hand-held cell phone use while driving didn't cut crashes either.

According to the IIHS, drivers may have responded to the laws prohibiting texting by 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 and drive crash rates up instead of down.

Noncompliance is another likely reason texting bans aren't reducing crashes. Survey results show that many drivers, especially younger ones, shrug off these bans. Among 18 to 24 year olds, the group most likely to text, 45 percent reported doing so anyway in states that ban all drivers from texting. This is just shy of the 48 percent of drivers who reported texting in states without bans, says the IIHS.

NYS amended article 1225-d of the Vehicle and Traffic Law to enable primary enforcement of the law against the use of portable electronic devices while driving effective July 12, 2011, enabling enforcement agencies to stop a vehicle solely for the act of texting. Violations of texting while driving and use of hand-held cell phones carry two points against your license. But is this enough to discourage texting and cell phone use while driving? Apparently not.

The perceived benefits of texting and cell phone use while driving, the unlikely chance of being pulled over by police for these acts, coupled with a perception that you can do this safely leads to an extremely high rate of non-compliance with these laws.

Another problem with banning these distractions is that drivers do not perceive texting or cell phone use as being any more dangerous than eating a burger, drinking a soda, changing stations on the radio, or a host of other distractions which are not banned.

So what's the solution? Good question, one the experts can't answer. Drivers have already shown they will only partially comply with many V & T laws. We all speed sometimes, we all roll through stop signs, and we all stop on a crosswalk or park where we shouldn't, so why do we think we won't text or use our cell phones? If you have a solution, please let us know.


For more articles on vehicle and traffic law and traffic safety, go to the Franklin County website, and under Departments, click on Traffic Safety Board.



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