If your eyes are telling you more of your fellow motorists are texting in their cars, despite many states passing laws to prevent exactly that, they probably aren't lying.
Last week the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety released a study that found laws banning texting while driving put in place by the states aren't working. Overall, the study found the laws failed to reduce the number of car crashes compared to neighboring states that didn't enact such laws. In three of four states that banned texting while driving, crashes actually went up after texting bans took effect.
The study's findings don't surprise me too much. I think it's a stretch to blame the increase in crashes in some states on the fact that they have an anti-texting-while-driving law. Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't see any possible way a ban would cause people to do it more often.
But since these laws started popping up, I've doubted the ability or willingness of law enforcement to pull over every driver they think is texting. It seems to me it would be hard to prove someone was texting, as opposed to picking up your cell phone to see who was calling or something else. Basically, you're asking a police officer to determine what exactly someone is doing with their mobile phone while driving by them at speed, and that seems pretty tough.
On the other hand, texting while driving will have to be addressed, one way or another. There's simply no way municipalities are going to put up with drivers more impaired than drunk drivers crashing in their streets. Texting bans by themselves aren't going to do the job; what will probably end up happening is some sort of blanket requirement that cell phones have a device that prevents texting while in motion. It sounds like a blunt instrument, but I can't think of a better solution short of launching the same kind of sweeping campaign to make texting while driving socially unacceptable as Mothers Against Drunk Driving put together to reduce drunk driving.
Either way, the findings of the IIHS study are really bad news for drivers. Not only will the unabated rise in texting while driving eventually end up resulting in higher auto insurance premiums across the board to cover the costs of crashes caused by it, but it will result in more heavy handed enforcement actions in the form of handicapped cell phones or some other broad measure to save drivers from themselves.
What do you think? Is some kind of required gadget in your cell phone the way to stop texting while driving? Do you have a better alternative?