Texting and Driving Laws

Texting and Driving Laws

It’s rare in this day and age to find someone without a cell phone. With the rise of the cell phone, however, also came the rise of texting and driving and, unfortunately, an increase in automobile collisions stemming from distracted driving. Notably, a 2017 study completed by Zendrive found drivers use their cell phones during 88 out of 100 trips. As a result, there’s been a widespread adoption of texting and driving laws. Specifically, 48 states and the District of Columbia now have a ban on texting and driving. With regard to these bans, there are essentially four different types of bans:

  1. Primary enforcement with respect to these bans on all drivers;
  2. Secondary enforcement with respect to these bans on all drivers;
  3. Primary enforcement on young drivers with respect to these bans and secondary enforcement on all other drivers;
  4. Primary enforcement with respect to these bans only on young drivers.

While the specific types of bans and consequences of texting and driving vary state-to-state, a majority of these consequences can include fines, fees and even license suspension. With the implementation of these regulations, the question follows as to whether or not the same have effectively reduced the number of collisions caused by texting and driving.

A July 2014 study found that “primarily enforced laws banning all drivers from texting were significantly associated with a three percent reduction in traffic fatalities in all age groups, and those banning only young drivers from texting had the greatest impact on reducing deaths among those aged 15 to 21 years. Secondarily enforced restrictions were not associated with traffic fatality reductions in any of our analyses.” Alva O. Ferdinand, Nir Menachemi, Bisakha Sen, Justin L. Blackburn, Michael Morrisey, and Leonard Nelson, 2014: Impact of Texting Laws on Motor Vehicular Fatalities in the United States, American Journal of Public Health 104, 1370_1377.

A more recent study completed in 2019 found that in states where it’s illegal to text while driving, there was a decline in crash-related emergency room visits after these laws took effect. On average, states saw 1,632 fewer traffic-related emergency room visits per year after implementing a texting ban, the new study found. Thus, it appears that where there is a total ban on texting and driving, there is a correlation with lower texting related collisions.

In sum, one thing is clear: Texting while driving and using a cell phone in any manner while driving cause distractions which in turn cause collisions. Regardless of whether your state has a total or partial ban with respect to using a cellular device while on the road, we as drivers have a duty to drive as carefully as possible and thus, we should leave the cell phones alone while operating a motor vehicle.

Have texting and driving laws made a difference?