Distracted driving has become a major cause of car accidents across the nation. Despite laws banning texting and driving or using phones behind the wheel, news stories continue to describe horrific distracted driving accidents. Recent news coverage of a young woman slamming into another driver at 107 mph while taking selfies with SnapChat raises questions about the effectiveness of these laws.
A study published by the Texas A&M School of Public Health suggests laws banning texting and driving prevent accidents. According to the study, hospitalization rates involving distracted drivers dropped by 7 percent between 2003 and 2010 in states with texting and driving bans.
States with primary enforcement laws were the most successful at preventing distracted driving deaths. Primary enforcement means officers can pull over drivers on the suspicion of texting behind the wheel, as opposed to being required to witness the behavior.
But what about talking on phones, which has also been shown to contribute to distracted driving accidents? Texting and driving bans may be effective, but only with certain age groups. According to a study carried out by the University of Alabama Birmingham, states that banned texting for drivers with primary enforcement laws saw a decrease in deaths among young drivers. These states experienced an 11 percent drop in traffic fatalities among drivers under 21.
This same decrease did not carry over to drivers age 21 to 64, who are more likely to talk or use handsfree technology. It appears distracted driving laws do work, but are more effective under certain circumstances. Whether or not people are deterred by distracted driving fines is another question for a future blog.
Will Louisiana Pass New Distracted Driving Laws?
Louisiana legislators are trying make our roads safer by increasing the penalties for texting and driving. Legislation proposed by a Louisiana state senator could raise the fines for texting and driving from $175 to $500 for first time offenders. Drivers with more than one offense would face fines of $1,000.
If such legislation is successful, perhaps Louisiana can benefit from a reduction in injuries and deaths caused by distracted driving.