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Do Distracted Driving Bans Work?

Researchers at Texas A&M University gathered data from 2007 and 2014 on the results of texting bans in 16 different states. The data was compared with states that do not have texting bans. In states with primary bans (when a driver is texting or has a cellphone in their hand, they can be stopped and ticketed), there were found to be more than 1,600 fewer emergency room visits each year—an 8% decrease. This includes California.

A secondary ban is when a driver can only be ticketed for texting if they are already stopped for another infraction.
According to the study’s lead researcher and an assistant professor of health policy and management at Texas A&M University, Alva Ferdinand, these results show that bans like this have public health benefits and are more than just perceived inconveniences.

But these benefits can vary from one jurisdiction to the next, depending on how enforcement is handled and how stringent the bans are. With stricter enforcement, even more injuries and deaths could be avoided, partly because it would discourage drivers from trying to test the boundaries of the ban. If drivers are aware of the ban but don’t see it being enforced, there’s little pressure to make behavior changes.

While the study isn’t conclusive, it does suggest that laws like texting bans do actually make a difference. With a primary ban in place, police officers are able to stop dangerous driving behavior when they spot it, rather than waiting for another reason to pull someone over.

Distracted driving puts drivers, passengers, other drivers on the road, and pedestrians at risk. This study was published in the American Journal of Public Health.

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