Study: texting bans ineffective

A recent study by the Highway Safety Data Institute (HSDI) in the U.S. has revealed some alarming trends in states that have banned texting while driving. The study began in 2007 and focuses on four states that have implemented bans on texting and driving – California, Louisiana, Minnesota and Washington.

The study’s results have shown that bans, while causing a slight drop in the number of drivers texting, do not have any lasting effect. Drivers in these states, especially within the 18-24 demographic, are only slightly less likely to drive and text than in other states without similar laws. When surveyed, 45% of 18-24 year olds said they text while driving, only slightly below the 48% in states without a ban. Not only are drivers ignoring the ban, but three of the states saw a slight increase in texting related accidents.

The authors of the study speculate that the increase in accidents is caused by drivers attempting to hide their phones. Instead of holding the phone up as drivers did when texting was not banned, drivers in the test states would often conceal their phone in their lap. This takes the driver’s eyes even further from the road and slows reaction time even more than texting with the phone in front of the windshield.

Further studies, such as one performed by Car and Driver magazine in the summer of 2009, have found that the effects of texting while driving on reaction time can actually be greater than that of drinking and driving. Unfortunately, texting is a relatively new development in the driving world and while many people recognize the dangers of texting and driving, they are often ignored as it does not carry the same social taboo as drinking. There have been increasing efforts to warn people about the inherent dangers, but compared to the concentrated efforts of campaigns against drinking and driving, advocates still have a long way to go.

With a campus located in the heart of downtown, Laurier Brantford’s students see a great deal of heavy traffic on a daily basis. This makes distracted drivers of particular concern to student pedestrians and drivers. Many students have expressed concern.

“There’s always the chance that those drivers will be texting, and if you’re crossing the street, they could kill you,” says Jon Aitken, a first year Laurier Brantford student.

Despite what most Ontario students and young drivers seem to know, many continue to disregard the dangers of driving and texting, in spite of the provincial law passed in April of this year which effectively bans using a cell phone while driving. This issue was addressed in a statement from a representative of the HSDI:

“Enforcement is challenging, and without effective enforcement, drivers are unlikely to put down their phones.”

The HSDI has been examining some alternative methods to traditional legal enforcement, and indicated that there may be some potential in developing phones that simply won’t operate in a moving vehicle. Enforcement agencies continue to look for better ways to prevent distracted driving, and students hope their peers will smarten up.

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