States with primary enforcement laws against texting while driving appear to be having an impact on reducing traffic deaths, a new study released by the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) – School of Public Health has found.
Primary enforcement means that there doesn’t have to be another reason for a police officer to stop a vehicle.
A recent Claims Journal article summarized some of the UAB findings, one of the most notable being a three percent decrease in fatalities among all age groups associated with states supporting primary texting bans. This translates to an average of 19 deaths prevented per year in states with such bans.
However, researchers revealed that states with secondary enforcement of texting bans (an officer must have another reason to stop a vehicle) didn’t see any real decrease in fatalities. Researchers also found bans on texting are most effective with young drivers, while bans on handheld cell phones are most effective with older adult drivers.
According to 2011 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 31 percent of U.S. drivers, aged 18-64 years, said that they had read or sent text or email messages while driving at least once in the 30 days prior. That year saw 3,331 fatalities and 387,000 injuries involving distracted drivers.
Using roadway fatality data captured in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System between 2000 and 2010, Alva O. Ferdinand, Dr.P.H., J.D., led the longitudinal panel study. She wanted to examine what impact texting laws have had on roadway crash-related fatalities and how variations in states’ laws affect those results to ultimately determine which laws are most beneficial in improving roadway safety.
Researchers’ results indicated that states with primary texting bans:
- Were “significantly associated” with reduced traffic fatalities in all age groups
- In all age groups, a 3 percent reduction in traffic deaths equates to 19 deaths prevented each year
- Reduced fatalities 11 percent among 15- to 21-year olds when targeted to young drivers.
States with secondary enforced restrictions also saw no significant reduction in traffic fatalities. In addition, states that prohibit use of cell phones without hands-free technology saw significant reductions in fatalities among the 21- to 64-year old age group.
Ferdinand hopes the findings help policymakers implement laws that are most effective in reducing traffic deaths. Her results are published in the August issue of the American Journal of Public Health.