Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Unintended Consequences of "We've Got To Do Something!"

Laws banning texting while driving actually may prompt a slight increase in road crashes, research out today shows...

Researchers at the Highway Loss Data Institute compared rates of collision insurance claims in four states — California, Louisiana, Minnesota and Washington — before and after they enacted texting bans. Crash rates rose in three of the states after bans were enacted.

The Highway Loss group theorizes that drivers try to evade police by lowering their phones when texting, increasing the risk by taking their eyes even further from the road and for a longer time. link

It's plausible.

On the other hand, there's this:
Sending text messages while driving was the culprit in the deaths of an estimated 16,000 people from 2001 to 2007. Even more sobering, researchers warn that fatalities have shot up significantly since 2005.

An analysis of federal data on road fatalities, published this week in the American Journal of Public Health, concluded that deaths due to "distracted driving" surged from 4,572 in 2005 to 5,870 in 2008. That's a 28 percent increase in three years.

Many of the deaths involved collisions with roadside objects, as drivers typing on their cell phones veer off-track and into poles, traffic lights or other items.

Whom to believe....


Steve USMA '85 said...

Believe them both. With the advent of texting, accidents caused by texting while driving have gone up. Had to, that type of accident didn't exist a few years ago. Still, it is a problem. Personally, I know a woman who freely admits that she totaled her car because she ran off the road while typing a text message.

On the other hand, accidents probably have increased in the states with anti-texting laws. Law of unintended consequences for sure, but what else to do? Not making it illegal doesn't make it 'safe,' just maybe slightly less dangerous. But, by making it illegal, you set the precedent that if you are texting while driving, you are at fault automatically. The person who normally would be at fault for an accident has legal recourse should they be able to show the other driver was texting while the accident occurred. As more people are busted for texting, or lose their not-at-fault status because of texting, as insurance rates go up because of these instances, we can hope the intention of the law will finally, eventually, be fulfilled.

But, in the long run, people are idiots at heart and many will continue regardless just like drinking & driving may go down, but will never be eradicated.

Anonymous said...

We can always try to find the data ourselves and then form an opinion.

I found this (secondary source, I know, but I'm not super motivated to put in lots of work on this one):

I'll observe that US traffic fatalities were *down* by approximately 6,000 per year [about 15%] from 2001 through 2009. Roughly 40K dead in 2001 versus 34K dead in 2009.

Fatalities are down substantially since 2005.

So maybe the researchers who "warn that fatalities have shot up significantly since 2005" are wrong? Or maybe the graph I found is wrong.

My guess is that with sufficient manipulation/adjustment the data can show whatever one wishes. But with traffic fatalities dropping by a lot since 2001, I think I'd take 2008-2009 fatalities with texting over 2001 fatalities (mostly without).

-Mark Roulo

Doug said...

Wouldn't you say they are saying the same thing? Distractions are illegal and they are leading to more collisions, leading to more fatalities?

Linda said...

Let's try the sensible solution - allow insurance companies to void paying out to any person whose phone record shows that they were using their phone for texting at the time of the crash. The companies, will pay for damages and medical of anyone they crashed into, but they can then recover from the texter.