Texting while driving study criticized by government officials

U.S. Secretary of Transportation criticized texting while driving study
U.S. Secretary of Transportation criticized texting while driving study

A study came out a few days ago which indicated that bans on texting while driving has not led to a decrease in car crashes. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was not happy about this study and he’s firing back.

In a blog post, LaHood questioned the authenticity of the study, which was conducted by a non-profit with auto insurance industry ties.

The Highway Loss Data Institute, an affiliate of IIHS, is now saying that state anti-texting laws may actually “increase” the overall number of crashes statewide. There are numerous flaws with this “study,” but the most obvious is that they have created a cause and effect that simply doesn’t exist.

This “study” is also inconsistent with research that HLDI-IIHS has relied on in the past, showing that drivers are four times as likely to crash if using a handheld device while driving. What’s more, they don’t actually take into account whether distracted driving behavior went up or down in the four hand-picked states they looked at.

I did look over the study and found it to be pretty well conducted. The report never really said that these laws are harmful but it used data to show that there was no correlation between banning texting while driving and decreased car crashes – the why’s and how’s are left up to interpretation.

LaHood also points out that the study didn’t take into account enforcement, as many of these laws are enacted without teeth. He pointed to a few areas like Syracuse where there have been demonstrable drops in cell phone usage while driving when there is a strong enforcement effort.

We all know that texting while driving can be dangerous, as another study found it led to 16,000 deaths over a six year period. I believe it’s going to take a combination of laws, enforcement, behavior changes and better technology to fully address this issue.

[Via Daily Tech]

  • No matter what study is right the fact remains that 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
    OTTER app

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