According to a new study by researchers at the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI)—which was based on claims comparisons from four states (California, Minnesota, Louisiana, and Washington) before and after laws were passed banning texting while driving—not only were there were no reductions in crashes after texting was banned, but 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.
So not only do texting bans NOT reduce texting-related crashes, but there appears to be an increase in texting-related crashes after the bans were implemented.
Now, I find this really odd, because a long time ago, alcohol was banned, and that worked…and today drugs are banned, and that’s working…and undocumented immigration is banned, and that’s of course working…and banning prostitution has worked since the beginning of civilization. So why isn’t THIS ban working?
Well, I called this years ago, and whaddya know—I was right.
Perhaps it’s because I’ve been around long enough to remember when mobile phones came into existence; back then, they were called “car phones”, and they were monstrosities that were wired into the automobile, much like a CB radio (yes, I remember those, too). They were expensive, and there were even fake ones you could buy to make you look like you were rich enough to afford a car phone.
And they were intended, obviously, to enable people to make use of their time on the road doing something productive, other than…well, driving.
Today, they’ve evolved not only to cell phones, but now smart phones, basically a pocket-sized computer, which enables all sorts of productive (and non-productive) activities while on the go—which includes, of course, when driving.
Here’s the thing: PEOPLE AREN’T GOING TO STOP USING THEIR CELL PHONES WHILE DRIVING JUST BECAUSE IT’S ILLEGAL. Any more that speed limit signs stop people from speeding.
It doesn’t take but a minuscule grasp of human nature to understand this.
So, when I saw state after state banning cell phone use while driving, I immediately pointed out what would happen: people would begin texting while driving, rather than talking while driving, so they could hold their phone below window level and out of the view of road pirates—and the result would be an increase in accidents, not a decrease.
And boy, did accidents increase. Texting-related accidents have become commonplace—likely much more common than accidents caused by the prior “distracted driving” of, heaven forbid, TALKING on the phone while driving.
But then, it got even worse. Why? Because states went even further, outlawing texting while driving, which forced drivers to move their phones even further out of view, thus drawing their eyes entirely off the road while texting.
Now, I can already hear lots of knee-jerking going on out there, so let me quickly iterate: I’m not advocating texting while driving; I’m simply pointing out that generally speaking, people are not going to forego using their phones while on the road, simply because it’s illegal, or even dangerous. And besides, the roads were much safer back when people were allowed to TALK on their phones—and thus SEE what’s going on around their vehicle—than it is now, with all these bans forcing the phones out of view and thus the driver’s eyes off the road.
The study quotes Adrian Lund, president of both HLDI and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety:
“Noncompliance is a likely reason texting bans aren’t reducing crashes,” [DUH] . . .”But this doesn’t explain why crashes increased after texting bans,” Lund points out. “If drivers were disregarding the bans, then the crash patterns should have remained steady. So clearly drivers did respond to the bans somehow, and what they might have been doing was 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 by taking drivers’ eyes further from the road and for a longer time.”
Understand: when you ban something that people want, they’ll find a way around the ban—which usually ends up being more problematic, or more dangerous, or more costly to society as a whole than the original activity was.
This entire issue harkens back to what I used to say, tongue-in-cheek, about drinking and driving: “Want to decrease drunk driving? Legalize Marijuana.”
It’s not rocket science, people.