Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Perry’s veto on texting ban legislation may — or may not have — saved lives
States with bans have actually seen an increase in texting-related crashes.
A press conference at the Texas Legislature yesterday touted a bills banning texting while driving, even though Governor Rick Perry vetoed such legislation last session. The pitch-session received wide coverage:
- Texas Tribune
- Houston Chronicle
- Dallas News
- Austin Statesman
- San Angelo Standard Times
- Odessa American
The tenor of all these stories may be summed up by state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, who said in a statement, "Banning texting while driving will undoubtedly save lives." There's only one problem: It's not true.
Remarkably, not one news outlet covering the story chose to mention that, "The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says that 3 of every 4 states that have enacted a ban on texting while driving have seen crashes actually go up rather than down." In a 2010 news release announcing the results of that study, the IIHS contended that:
- "Texting bans haven't reduced crashes at all. In a perverse twist, crashes increased in 3 of the 4 states we studied after bans were enacted. It's an indication that texting bans might even increase the risk of texting for drivers who continue to do so despite the laws," says Adrian Lund, president of both [the Highway Loss Data Institute] and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Lund said of lawmakers proposing such bans, "They're focusing on a single manifestation of distracted driving and banning it. This ignores the endless sources of distraction and relies on banning one source or another to solve the whole problem."
Why might texting bans increase accidents? IIHS suggested that drivers, particularly young people, may be "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." Indeed, "Using a driving simulator, researchers at the University of Glasgow found a sharp decrease in crash likelihood when participants switched from head-down to head-up displays. This suggests that it might be more hazardous for a driver to text from a device that's hidden from view on the lap or vehicle seat."
Bottom line: Texting bans have simply not had the desired effect. "Survey results indicate that many drivers, especially younger ones, shrug off these bans. Among 18-24 year-olds, the group most likely to text, 45 percent reported doing so anyway in states that bar all drivers from texting. This is just shy of the 48 percent of drivers who reported texting in states without bans."
I'm not surprised that legislators continue to push the ban despite such evidence. The go-to move for legislators whenever something occurs they don't like is to pass new criminal laws or seek to increase punishments, and if the only tool you own is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Grits does find it disappointing, though, that not one media outlet in the whole state offered up the caveat that such a law may do more harm than good.
Zaffirini said that if the governor vetoed this legislation again he'd have “blood on his hands” but it's entirely likely, if the Insurance Institute's analysis is accurate, that Rick Perry's veto of the texting ban actually saved lives. You'd never know it, though, if you receive all your news from the Texas MSM.
Pegasus News Content partner - Grits For Breakfast