Do Texting Bans Work? The Effectiveness of Laws That Target Texting While Driving

By: Malcolm P. “Mic”  McConnell, III, Richmond Medical Malpractice Attorney

Distracted drivers cause accidents every day. Many of these collisions result in serious or even fatal injuries on America’s roads and highways. Although many actions can take a driver’s attention off the road, texting while driving has become increasingly prevalent, especially among teenage drivers. As a result, many states have passed laws that impose fines on drivers who “text-and-drive.”

Delaware was the first state to pass such a law, which went into effect in April 2005.  Other states quickly followed.[1] Currently, 44 states ban drivers from texting while driving.[2] There are four kinds of texting bans:

(1) primary enforcement on ALL drivers;

(2) secondary enforcement on ALL drivers;

(3) primary enforcement on young drivers and secondary enforcement on all other drivers; and

(4) primary enforcement ONLY on young drivers.[3]

Primary enforcement means that police officers can stop a vehicle if they observe the driver texting and driving. Secondary enforcement means that officers must have stopped the vehicle for some other reason before they can charge the driver with texting and driving.[4]

There is no question that texting and driving is dangerous, but do such bans reduce texting-while-driving fatalities?  A team at the University of Alabama Birmingham School of Public Health analyzed eleven years of data to answer that question.[5] The team made three main findings:

First, primary enforcement effectively reduces traffic fatalities associated with texting and driving. A primary enforcement ban on texting and driving was associated with a 3 percent reduction in these kinds of fatalities, averaging out to 19 deaths prevented per year.[6]

Second, targeting primary bans at a subpopulation (such as young drivers) was especially effective at reducing deaths among that group. Specifically, the team found that “primary bans aimed at teens reduced fatalities in that group by 11 percent.”[7]

Finally, the data showed that a ban on any use of a handheld device while driving was most effective at reducing traffic deaths among adults.

The data collected shows that banning texting while driving saves lives. Nevertheless, many people continue to text and drive every day. If you or someone you know has been injured by a distracted driver, call the law firm of Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen.

About The Author: Malcolm "Mic" McConnell serves as the lead medical malpractice attorney at Allen & Allen. He has nearly 30 years of experience handling a variety of cases in nearly every medical specialty. Mic was recently named Best Lawyers' 2013 Richmond Medical Malpractice Law - Plaintiffs "Lawyer of the Year."


[1] See Niraj Chokshi, Texting Bans Work: They Cut Teen Traffic Deaths by 11 Percent, Study Finds, available online at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/govbeat/wp/2014/08/01/texting-bans-work-they-cut-teen-traffic-deaths-by-11-percent-study-finds/?Post+generic=%3Ftid%3Dsm_twitter_washingtonpost

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

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