Are Anti-Texting Laws Causing More Accidents?

A new study finds that states with anti-texting laws actually saw accidents caused by distracted driving go up.

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Hold the phone: A new study shows that anti-texting laws may actually lead to more accidents.It's no secret that distracted driving is a problem -- texting at the wheel pulls eyes off the road and has spurred anti-texting laws in 30 states and the District of Columbia. But new research from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the Highway Loss Data Institute shows that these laws may not be making roads any safer.

Researchers examined data from California, Louisiana, Minnesota and Washington in the months preceding and following the anti-texting implementation. In three of the four states, the number of accidents caused by distracted driving actually increased. And this correlation may be blamed on drivers between the ages of 18 and 24 -- 45 percent of this demographic admit to texting in spite of the bans. And in all four states, the number of crashes involving these young drivers increased.

"Noncompliance is a likely reason texting bans aren't reducing crashes," the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said in a statement.

Adrian Lund, president of the institutes, said the uptick in crashes may result from compounding distractions -- the act of texting while driving and also trying to hide the phone by holding it lower, which takes eyes off the road even longer.

But Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood disputes the implication that the texting bans are causing more accidents. LaHood said in his blog that the study "created a cause and effect that simply doesn't exist" and neglected to factor in effective enforcement. Moreover, he said the study failed to provide contextual data about "whether distracted driving behavior went up or down in the four hand-picked states."

And AAA also disagreed with the study's findings. "It is not realistic to expect that simply enacting a law to ban texting while driving will have a large, immediate impact on crash totals in a state in the first months," the organization said in a statement.

A study from the University of North Texas estimated that texting while driving caused 16,000 fatalities in the U.S. between 2001 and 2007.

Tags: AAA, anti-texting laws, Department of Transportation, Highway Loss Data Institute, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Mobile, News, Ray Lahood, texting, texting accidents, texting and driving, texting bans, texting while driving, Transportation Secretary

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