Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Texas media won't say it, but Rick Perry's veto of texting while driving ban likely saved lives

A press conference at the Texas Legislature yesterday touted a bills banning texting while driving, even though Governor Rick Perry vetoed such legislation last session. The pitch-session received wide coverage:
The tenor of all these stories may be summed up by state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, who said in a statement, "Banning texting while driving will undoubtedly save lives." There's only one problem: It's not true.

Remarkably, not one news outlet covering the story chose to mention that, "The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says that 3 of every 4 states that have enacted a ban on texting while driving have seen crashes actually go up rather than down." In a 2010 news release announcing the results of that study, the IIHS contended that:
"Texting bans haven't reduced crashes at all. In a perverse twist, crashes increased in 3 of the 4 states we studied after bans were enacted. It's an indication that texting bans might even increase the risk of texting for drivers who continue to do so despite the laws," says Adrian Lund, president of both [the Highway Loss Data Institute] and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Lund said of lawmakers proposing such bans, "They're focusing on a single manifestation of distracted driving and banning it. This ignores the endless sources of distraction and relies on banning one source or another to solve the whole problem."

Why might texting bans increase accidents? IIHS suggested that drivers, particularly young people, may be "moving their phones down and out of sight when they texted, in recognition that what they were doing was illegal. This could exacerbate the risk of texting by taking drivers' eyes further from the road and for a longer time." Indeed, "Using a driving simulator, researchers at the University of Glasgow found a sharp decrease in crash likelihood when participants switched from head-down to head-up displays. This suggests that it might be more hazardous for a driver to text from a device that's hidden from view on the lap or vehicle seat."

Bottom line: Texting bans have simply not had the desired effect. "Survey results indicate that many drivers, especially younger ones, shrug off these bans. Among 18-24 year-olds, the group most likely to text, 45 percent reported doing so anyway in states that bar all drivers from texting. This is just shy of the 48 percent of drivers who reported texting in states without bans."

I'm not surprised that legislators continue to push the ban despite such evidence. The go-to move for legislators whenever something occurs they don't like is to pass new criminal laws or seek to increase punishments, and if the only tool you own is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Grits does find it disappointing, though, that not one media outlet in the whole state offered up the caveat that such a law may do more harm than good.

Zaffirini said that if the governor vetoed this legislation again he'd have “blood on his hands” but it's entirely likely, if the Insurance Institute's analysis is accurate, that Rick Perry's veto of the texting ban actually saved lives. You'd never know it, though, if you receive all your news from the Texas MSM.


Anonymous said...

Politicians Logic:

Something must be done!
This is something.
Therefore: It must be done!

The Fishing Physicist

RAS said...

How does noncompliance with the ban prove the ban doesn't work? How many years and how many tickets did it take to get people to use seat belts? Did the initial stats 'prove' seat belt laws were useless?

Alan said...

Seems like the real solution is a technological one, that would somehow disable a gadget or the car if they're used simultaneously. I don't know how you'd distinguish a passenger's phone from the driver's, though. The law, then, would be to require such technology. Sounds kind of nanny state, but it's protection from the idiots.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

RAS, if seat belt laws caused more people to die, yes I'd consider them "useless," but that's not the case.

When people violated the seat belt ban it made them no less safe than they were before the law was passed. By contrast, the texting ban encourages behavior - holding the phone further down in their lap - that INCREASES the danger. Quite different circumstances.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Alan, I agree the ultimate solution to this will be technological, IMO not something solved through criminalization.

RSO wife said...

I don't usually agree with most of what Rick Perry says or does, but for once he made an intelligent choice, must have been an error in judgement on his part. Just because there's a law against something doesn't mean people won't do it anyway. If enacting laws would stop something, then we would have absolutely no crime since it seems that there is a law against almost everything.

Anonymous said...

The war on drugs is still working, though, right?

Anonymous said...

RSO Wife -
I agree. Texting while driving can be done safely, and people will do it anyways. So there's no point in making it illegal. Same for running red lights and stop signs. Lots of people do it. With care it can be done safely. Why criminalize it?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

12:34, don't put words in others' mouths just because you can't rebut what she actually said. She didn't say "Texting while driving can be done safely," you did. Don't troll.

Anonymous said...

So the rise in accidents is proved to be caused by the ban on texting?

Thought not.

Correlation does not etc. etc. etc. You've heard this before, but it's so inconvenient when you can twist evidence to fit your position.

C'mon folks.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

10:37, are there other, better-researched studies you'd rely on to claim texting bans reduce accidents? I don't mean studies that say texting while driving is dangerous, which are numerous, but that the tactic of banning it worked?

Correlation is not causation, but the correlation still implies that texting bans did not have the effect claimed by those who passed the laws and flies in the face of all the "blood on his hands" rhetoric.

Troy said...

People have long eaten, smoked, sang, talked, and done countless other tasks while driving. There is no doubt that eliminating all distractions would improve safety, but is it realistic, much less worth it? Is it worth singling out this one distraction? We cannot solve all problems and there are times, like this, when it is futile, if not more dangerous, to try.

Less government is usually always better government. But, then again, government, even Republican controlled government, is usually anxious to impose its alleged "wisdom" on the population in general.

Why not just make speeding a felony because it presents a risk of death from an accident? Whenever the legislature is in session, it is almost certain that they will make an effort to make more citizens criminal. It is time for it to stop.


Ruth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ruth said...

The bottom line is, if you pass a day texting while driving, you are wiser than the law makers just in that mere instance, you beat the red light yesterday, that’s great, but what if you get yourself hurt, or worse got killed in a crash while texting or beating the red light, you’d be lucky to ask yourself who’s dumber now?...or you might never have the chance to do so. Year 2011, 1.3 million crashes were recorded involving cell phone. It’s a matter of self-discipline.