Cars Blog

Finance Blogs » Cars Blog » More on texting while driving

More on texting while driving

By Claes Bell ·
Monday, October 4, 2010
Posted: 3 pm ET

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.

Despite laws in many states and the risk of car accidents and the auto insurance hikes that go with them, people still text and drive.

Despite laws in many states and the risk of car accidents and the auto insurance hikes that go with them, people still text and drive.

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?

Bankrate wants to hear from you and encourages comments. We ask that you stay on topic, respect other people's opinions, and avoid profanity, offensive statements, and illegal content. Please keep in mind that we reserve the right to (but are not obligated to) edit or delete your comments. Please avoid posting private or confidential information, and also keep in mind that anything you post may be disclosed, published, transmitted or reused.

By submitting a post, you agree to be bound by Bankrate's terms of use. Please refer to Bankrate's privacy policy for more information regarding Bankrate's privacy practices.
October 07, 2010 at 12:52 pm

Firstly, wouldn't such a limitation make it so that passengers also couldn't text?

Secondly, I think having a control on all cell phones to prevent texting while moving is a bit like having a breathalyzer control on every car's ignition -- it would prevent the unwanted behavior (driving while distracted/intoxicated), but it would also be an over-the-top infringement of personal rights. A better solution would be to make it easier to prosecute cell phone-related distracted driving by simply saying no driver may touch or hold a cell phone at all while driving except in the case of a verifiable emergency. If the police can't tell when someone is touching a cell phone while driving, they aren't looking, because I see it several times a day without particularly looking for it.

Another solution would be to have a recorder in the car measuring when texts or calls are made from inside the vehicle, so that in the case that there is an accident, police could more easily establish fault based on cell phone usage.

October 05, 2010 at 2:04 pm

Well, one way parents can help with this is to TURN OFF TEXTING on their kids phones...that power is in your hands. My kids will only have cell phones when they have jobs to pay for them, and sure as heck will not have texting capability allowed on them! I cannot think of ANY VALID reason an 11 year old child NEEDS a cell phone. I see all these kids at the mall...and they are there together, but still texting each other! It's ridiculous.

Mr. Wood, I am glad that your child was not harmed and I hope your app does some good. Sadly, most younger kids don't have smartphones so this may not help with them, but I'm sure executives are pretty active in this as well, so maybe that will help. Good Luck to you!

Tim Tebow
October 05, 2010 at 11:19 am

Texting needs to be banned while driving, one way or another. Motion sensors in the phones seems to be the only way to make this happen. I'm tired of almost getting run down by drivers who are looking down at their phone while driving 45mph in a 25mph zone. Too many close calls. How many people need to be killed?

Erik Wood
October 04, 2010 at 7:37 pm

Business people need to 'hit the ball over the net'. Teens consider it rude not to reply immediately to texts. Home schedules would grind to a halt without immediate communication. We are conditioned to pursue this level of efficiency but we are all supposed cease this behavior once we sit in our respective 5,000 pound pieces of steel and glass. Anyone can win an argument in a forum like this by saying "Just put the phone away" - but we can see its just not happening.

I just read that 72% of teens text daily - many text more 3000 times a month. New college students no longer have email addresses! They use texting and Facebook - even with their professors. This text and drive issue is in its infancy and its not going away.

I decided to do something about it after my three year old daughter was nearly run down right in front of me by a texting driver . Instead of a shackle that locks down phones and alienates the user (especially teens) I built a tool called OTTER that is a simple app for smartphones. I think if we can empower the individual then change will come to our highways now and not just our laws.

Erik Wood, owner