Milwaukee Economists Study Texting Bans’ Impact on Fatalities

Posted on March 27, 2013

Despite the widespread belief that texting and driving can be detrimental to one’s ability to safely navigate the roads, the phenomenon is still new enough that the effect texting bans actually have on traffic safety has not been fully studied.  It could take years to fully determine how beneficial texting bans can be, but one such study into the issue arrives at some interesting results.

Economists from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee were responsible for the research, which sought to figure out what sorts of texting bans produced the best results following passage.  There are multiple levels of what one could consider a “texting ban;” texting could be a secondary offense, a primary offense, or a state or city might decide to ban all handheld cellphone usage altogether.

These bans vary on a state by state basis.  The aforementioned researchers compared fatality rates between 2007 and 2010 in those states which had some sort of ban in place.  Their research shows a very limited correlation between texting bans and lower fatality rates.  Secondary texting bans, in which a person must first be pulled over for some other offense, were shown to have little to no effect, while primary bans saw single vehicle fatal accidents in which only one person was inside at the time get cut down by 8%.

However, after a few months had set in and drivers seemingly grew accustomed to the new law, the rate climbed to pre-ban levels.  When cellphone usage was banned totally, this reoccurrence was slower.

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