Texting while driving bans are not effective at reducing the number of car accidents, a recent study finds.
While Utah was not among the states looked at in the most recent survey, the study’s main finding that the bans are ineffective echoes survey results of Utah drivers released earlier this year.
The study released on Sept. 8 by the Highway Loss Data institute compares the number of car crashes before and after texting bans went into place in Washington, Minnesota, California and Louisiana.
In those states, crash numbers either remained the same or increased. And in all four, accidents increased among drivers younger than 25. Researchers believe those under 25-years-old are most likely to text while driving.
Sgt. Tracy Whant with the Taylorville Police Department believes the texting ban message isn’t reaching everyone.
“I think the message is being delivered in a limited fashion,” Whant said. “I think the message is starting to be delivered.”
The study’s authors believe the number of crashes went up because texting drivers tried to hide their phones so police couldn’t see them. By holding their phones lower, the drivers had to take their eyes even more off the road, the researchers speculate.
Whant agrees that people trying to hide their phones has become an issue.
“It distracts you even more,” he said. “We certainly see people trying to hide their phones.”
“I like to text with both hands holding my phone against the steering wheel,” said an SLCC student who wished to remain anonymous due to the legal implications of admitting to breaking the law. “I don’t think it’s any more distracting than changing the radio station.”
A year after Utah’s texting while driving ban went into effect, a survey showed that the number of adults’ texting behind the wheel actually increased. Utah’s Health Department released the results of a survey in May showing that the number of adults who say they text while driving has grown to 26 percent, up from 23 percent before the ban went into effect in May of 2009.
American Family Insurance Agent Randy Curtis says the issue is not so much texting while driving but distracted driving. Curtis thinks police should crack down on all dangerous driving, not just texting.
“Anything that takes your eyes off of the road is a distraction,” Curtis said. “Whether it’s putting on makeup, eating a bowl of cereal or using a GPS device, we need the focus to be on all dangerous habits.”
About two dozen states have anti-texting laws that outlaw drivers of any age from sending text messages while driving, including Utah. Some states like Missouri have only banned younger drivers from texting while driving.