If you happened to read our article on the dangers of texting while driving early last month, then you are no stranger to the notion that drunk driving may actually be less dangerous than texting while driving. But now, thanks to a recent study on declining car crash injury rates, there is hard evidence to back it up.
According to researchers at the Texas A&M School of Public Health, data shows that a steady decrease in car-crash hospitalizations took place in states with strict laws forbidding texting while driving. In fact, between 2003 and 2010, which were the years studied by the research team, overall hospitalizations decreased by a total of 7%.
Alva Ferdinand, who is an assistant professor at the Texas A&M School of Public Health and the research leader who headed up the study, says that while the study cannot conclusively prove that texting bans caused the decline, the team worked very hard to account for all other factors that could possibly have influenced the numbers.
And the results are still the same.
The team apparently included such factors as each state’s drunk driving numbers, speeding laws, and any restrictions that may be in place for cellphones and teenaged drivers. And yet, all of those factors did not change the results.
The study, which was published in the American Journal of Public Health, showed that, across the board, all states with strict, enforceable bans on texting while driving had seen steady declines in hospitalizations as a result of car accidents.
Also, the most significant declines were seen in states where the texting bans were strictest, also known as a “primarily enforced” ban. This refers to the fact that officers have the right to pull a driver over on the mere suspicion of texting, without any other pretext, like suspected drunk driving or an expired license.
According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 80% of all car crashes are tied directly to driver inattention. That is a staggering number, and calls for some major shifts in social perception.
Currently, 45 of the nation’s 50 states have some form of texting ban for drivers, although 5 of those require that an officer have another reason for pulling a driver over during a traffic stop. And even the remaining 5 have some form of restriction in place to protect drivers.
While Michigan is not in the top 7 states with the strictest laws regarding a driver’s use of a handheld cellphone, it is illegal to use the text function of your phone on any road in the state. It may seem restrictive and frustrating to drivers, but the numbers don’t lie. Please be smart and safe when driving, both for your sake and for the drivers around you!