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Study Finds Texting Bans Don’t Reduce Crashes

September 30, 2010

A new study by researchers at the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) finds no reductions in crashes after laws take effect that ban texting by all drivers. In fact, such bans are associated with a slight increase in the frequency of insurance claims filed under collision coverage for damage to vehicles in crashes.

This finding is based on comparisons of claims in four states before and after texting ban, compared with patterns of claims in nearby states. The findings are consistent with those of a previous HLDI study, which found that banning hand-held phone use while driving doesn't cut crashes. HLDI is an affiliate of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

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 Calif. (January 2009), La. (July 2008), Minn. (August 2008) and Wash. (January 2008). Comparable data were 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.

"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," says Adrian Lund, president of both HLDI and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

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 adds.

Month-to-month fluctuations in the rates of collision claims in HLDI's four study states with texting bans for all drivers didn't change much from before to after the bans were enacted. Nor did the patterns differ much from those in nearby states that didn't ban texting for all drivers during the study period. To the extent that the crash patterns did change in the study states, they went up, not down, after the bans took effect. Increases varied from one percent more crashes in Wash. to about nine percent more in Minn. (the result in Wash. isn't statistically significant).

Young motorists are more likely than older people to text while driving. In all four of the study states, crashes increased among drivers younger than 25 after the all-driver bans took effect. In California, Louisiana and Washington, the increases for young drivers were greater than for drivers 25 and older. The largest crash increase of all (12 percent) following enactment of a texting ban was among young drivers in California.

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