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Do No-Texting Laws Decrease Car Accident Rates?

Sending text messages, emails or instant messages while driving is now banned in more than 40 states. Now the question is whether these laws have actually reduced the number of vehicle crashes related to distracted driving. 

Do No-Texting Laws Decrease Car Accident Rates

The report that is often cited to answer that question was conducted by RahiAbouk and Scott Adams, economists at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee who co-authored, Texting Bans and Fatal Accidents on Roadways: Do They Work? Or Do Drivers Just React to Announcements of Bans?

Using national statistics, the two researchers focused on single-vehicle, single-occupancy fatalities in 49 states after texting laws took effect and compared those statistics to the legislation. What they found was that states with “strong bans”, where texting while driving is a primary offense, saw an eight percent reduction in fatal crashes.

States with “weak bans”, where texting while driving is a secondary offense, did not show a reduction. In both cases, by the fourth month after the ban was announced, the fatalities had gone back to their previous levels.

Texting and driving has become such a major road hazard that car accident attorney websites list “Texting and Driving Collisions” as one of the many types of cases they handle.

Latest states to enact legislation

Regardless of the findings, lawmakers, law enforcement and advocates for banning texting while driving want laws in place to prevent further tragedies. The following states are the latest to pass laws:

1. Florida.

Florida became the 41st state to ban texting while driving. The new law, which took effect Oct. 1, makes texting while driving a secondary offense. Violators face a $30 penalty for the first violation and six points on their driving record.

2. Hawaii.

The law, which took effect July 1, prohibits all motorists from using handheld cell phones while driving and prohibits motorists under 18 from using all wireless devices.

3. New York.

The new law, passed in June 2013, prohibits teenage drivers from texting or talking on a handheld cell phone while driving. Teen drivers will have their permits, probationary and junior licenses suspended for 60 days during their first violation.

Probationary licenses are revoked for six months and a junior license is revoked for 60 days for the second offense. Also this year, New York tightened up its texting and driving law, which passed in 2011, by raising the penalty from two points to three points on a driving record for drivers who violate the law. The fine remains at $150.

4. Alabama.

State legislators had been working on a bill to ban texting while driving for six years. The bill finally became law in May 2012 and took effect in August 2012. The measure makes sending text messages, emails and instant messages while driving a primary offense. Drivers can still use a cell phone while driving. First time offenders face a $25 fine, second-time offenders must pay $50 and three or more offenses is a $75 fine. The offenders receive two points on their driving record for each offense.

The states of Arizona, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, South Carolina and Texas are the remaining states that have not yet passed laws banning texting and driving.

The national AAA organization set out in 2009 to advocate for passing texting bans in all 50 states. 

Valerie Stout Cyrus is a freelance writer who frequently researches car accident claims. She has found that Manhattan Accident Attorneys,, represent individuals who are victims of all types of car accidents, from DWI to distracted driving.

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