Courts & Crime

Study: State bans on texting behind wheel not effective

They say you can't legislate morality. Turns out, you might not be able to legislate safe texting either.

A new study, presented Tuesday at a national traffic safety conference in Kansas City, questions whether the rush to ban texting is doing any good.

Researchers found that crashes were increasing in a handful of states with texting bans. They speculated that drivers are ignoring the bans and texting in more dangerous ways to avoid being ticketed.

But the study was immediately criticized by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who called it misleading and rife with flaws.

LaHood said the study overlooked success stories where tough law enforcement coupled with cell phone laws are reducing distracted driving.

Thirty-eight states, including Kansas and Missouri, have banned texting for all or some drivers. But the new study by the Highway Data Loss Institute suggests the bans might not prove effective.

The study found that crashes increased in three states that passed texting bans: Louisiana, California and Minnesota. Crashes also increased in Washington, but it wasn't considered statistically significant.

The study was based on an analysis of collision claims during the months immediately before and after texting was banned in those states.

"Texting bans, like cell phone bans, are not improving safety. We are seeing no reduction in crashes," said Adrian Lund, president of the Highway Data Loss Institute, which is affiliated with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Lund stressed that researchers aren't suggesting that texting or talking on the phone while driving is safe. Other studies, he noted, have shown that the crash risk increases four times while drivers use a phone behind the wheel.

Although the crash risk of texting hasn't been figured, it may be comparable or greater than the risk of talking on the phone while driving, Lund said.

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