Everyone hates people who text while driving. Everyone. Even, notably, those who text while driving themselves. In response, we have passed a lot of laws to ban texting while driving.
How are they working? The early returns are not good. The recent report by the Highway Loss Data Institute listed car accident data in four states – California, Louisiana, Minnesota, and Washington – that have banned texting while driving and found that there was no decrease in the accident rate. The study further found that instead of a decrease in texting-related car accidents, “there appears to have been a small increase in claims in the states enacting texting bans” suggesting “that texting drivers have responded to the law . . . by hiding their phones from view.”
Who funded the study? The report is by the Highway Loss Data Institute, an insurance industry-funded research group that opposes laws banning text messages for reasons that escape me as I write this post. I don’t think they have a lot of credibility. But, look, I don’t disagree with the premise. The law is new and public awareness as to the scope of the distracted driver problems (over 5,000 deaths a year in this country) has not waded its way into the public consciousness beyond the reflex of hating everyone who texts and drives except yourself. But over time, anti-texting laws will be an important weapon to underscoring the risk of texting and driving. The other big weapon, sadly, will be continued reports and understanding of the bloodshed that results from people texting while driving.