Is California's texting ban really saving lives?

Texting while driving is against the law in California, as it is in many other states. But just how effective are these laws at preventing distracted driving accidents? A study published recently in the August American Journal of Public Health addresses that question.

Distracted driving laws vary widely from one state to the next in terms of who they affect and how they are enforced. For example, some states limit cellphone use in the same ways for all drivers, while others specifically target teens and other novice drivers. 

Another difference among these laws is that some are primary enforcement laws and others are secondary. A primary texting ban is one that permits police to pull drivers over specifically for texting. In contrast, a secondary ban allows police to issue texting citations only if the driver has already been stopped for some other infraction, such as running a red light.

In California, handheld texting while driving is a primary offense for all drivers, regardless of age. According to the study, primary texting bans were associated with a decrease in traffic fatalities of at least 3 percent -- the equivalent of about 19 lives saved each year. In states that specifically target teen drivers, the number of traffic deaths declined even further, by about 11 percent.

Considering that texting occupies a person’s eyes, hands and mind all at the same time, it is no wonder that texting and driving is so often such a disastrous combination. People who cause accidents as a result of texting while driving can be held liable for the medical bills, lost income and other damages suffered by others who are hurt. Talk to a lawyer to find out more if you or someone close to you has been hurt in a crash.

Source: The Washington Post, "Texting bans work: They cut teen traffic deaths by 11 percent, study finds," Niraj Chokski, August 1, 2014

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