By: Allan M. Siegel
Text messaging at the wheel is considered one of the most dangerous forms of distracted driving because it commands a driver's visual, manual, and cognitive attention simultaneously. According to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), texting while driving causes thousands of preventable accidents and injuries each year.
Because distracted driving is such a dangerous epidemic, a total of 44 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws prohibiting drivers from using cell phones or text messaging while driving. Many of these states also have laws specifically written for younger drivers. In the District of Columbia, for example, novice drivers are not allowed to use cell phones while driving, no matter if they're using a hands-free device. According to a recent study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health, these laws have paid off by reducing teen traffic deaths.
The study, published in the American Journal of Health this month, found that texting bans – especially ones directly targeting teens and novice drivers – can greatly reduce rates of preventable accidents. Researchers used traffic crash data from 2000 to 2010, comparing traffic deaths from states with and without texting bans.
Researchers also looked at states that banned texting for all drivers and states that banned text messaging only for younger drivers. Comparisons were made between primary and secondary laws. Primary laws allow officers to stop and cite drivers simply for texting. Secondary laws only allow officers to cite drivers for texting if they pulled them over for a different reason. Here's what they found:
- Texting bans can reduce teen traffic deaths by as much as 11 percent.
- States with primary texting bans reduced traffic deaths by 3 percent – equal to saving 19 lives each year.
The study sends a positive message to states that texting bans can work and save lives, and that these laws should be embraced in states across the nation. In addition to texting bans, parents can help keep their teen drivers safe by talking to them about the dangers of texting behind the wheel. As we've covered in previous blogs, distracted driving apps are also available to help parents prevent teens and young adults from sending text messages while driving.
At Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C., our Washington, DC car accident lawyers have extensive experience representing victims and families who were harmed by drivers who chose to text or use cellphones while driving. If you have questions about your rights after a distracted driving accident, call 202-644-8303 to learn how we can help.