back to article Car wrecks rise after texting bans imposed

Laws banning texting or talking on a mobile phone while driving don't reduce car accidents. "In fact," concludes the US Highway Loss Data Institute, "[texting] bans are associated with a slight increase in the frequency of insurance claims filed under collision coverage for damage to vehicles in crashes." This counter- …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "perhaps by attempting to avoid fines by hiding their phones from view"

    As texting is illegal it could also be that drivers are now rushing to text quickly before being spotted which would increase the distraction and likelihood of an accident.

    1. Steve Evans

      My thought exactly...

      When not explicitly illegal, you could have held the mobile on the steering wheel, in plain sight, and also had some awareness of what is going on outside the vehicle.

      Now it's illegal, the mobile will be sitting on the drivers lap, stealth mode.

      1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

        Umm, that IS safer..

        If the device is held on the steering wheel while the airbag goes off it won't give a very pretty result. Come to think of it, are drivers also distracted when they are poking their nose? That would be a *perfect* moment for an airbag to go off - I'd love to see the medical claim form for that one..

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Stop

      the key word is "illegal"

      It isn't the ban which is causing the rise in numbers.

      The rate has gone up because people would rather increase their risk of an accident still further, instead of obeying the law.

      1. Steve 13
        FAIL

        so that is the ban

        It doesn't matter how you try to explain it, that's the affect of the ban that's actually made the situation worse.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Flame

          @Steve 13

          No, it's the fault of the morons who are breaking the law. Are you one of them?

          P.S. The word you were looking for was "effect".

    3. Wize

      And touch screen phones...

      I could easily send a text on my old N95 without looking at it by the feel of a physical keypad. Most smartphones are keypadless and need your eyes to see what you are texting. Some have qwerty keyboards but its easier to use both hands (thumbs) to write anything on them.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Joke

    There's just too many distractions...

    I can bet every driver who visits The Reg has been distracted by:

    Stuff rolling of passenger seat onto floor.

    Spilling a drink

    A pedestrian with interesting assets

    Lack of sleep

    Eating at the wheel

    Changing the music

    Following a satnav

    A winged insect inside the car

    A low flying aircraft

    The Fuzz

    Road Rage

    Mind altering substances

    Road Works

    Other drivers

    The road

    The sky

    A tree

    A badger

    Another badger

    A badger in a tree

    A badger in a tree above roadworks on mind altering substances

    A badger in a tree above roadworks on mind altering substances with interesting assets

    Where were we?

    Oh yeah, phones, terribly distracting, a menace on our roads!

    Ban them, ban them all - roads that is, we need our phones and cars, we can drive them across fields instead. Buy a tractor.

    1. Pete 2

      In order

      No (unless you count the passenger)

      Absolutely never

      weeelllll, yes

      yes (shame)

      never

      yes

      no

      yes

      yes - though it was a helicopter and it was crop spraying and the car did get doused, liberally

      hmmm

      mumble

      yes (deep shame)

      eh?

      no

      uh? no

      no

      no

      badger? no - though I once braked for a wild boar

      s/badger/pigeon/ yes - when it hit the windscreen

      a badger in a light aircraft with a blue flashing light following a satnav while eating and stoned? - err, not yet - though that would be one _interesting_ insurance claim.

      1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
        Badgers

        I propose...

        a new section to the driving test. Show the candidate the above items during the test, if they are distracted by any of them, they fail.

        Should make the roads safer... and much quieter.

    2. BristolBachelor Gold badge
      Pint

      Men are from Mars...

      Man from Mars; did you create a new account because you couldn't remember your password?

    3. The BigYin

      One factor less...

      ...is one factor less. In that vein, perhaps we should have metal spikes put on steering wheels. You can get people would pay attention then!

      1. Steve 13
        FAIL

        only ever suggested by idiots

        Why don't you try it out. Then when someone crashes into you through no fault of your own, with your dying breath you can declare it to not be as effective as you thought.

        1. The BigYin

          @Steve 13

          Was that directed at me?

          Idiot I may be, but the theory of risk compensation (or risk homeostasis is you prefer) isn't.

          It's where people try to keep the perceived risk at a level they are comfortable (excitement/arousal offset against fear). If you make things too safe, people try to up the risk factor. If you make them dangerous (or at least, seem dangerous) then people do what they can to lower the risk factor.

          So, spikes on steering wheels? Yup, if they were on all cars then people would take more care.

          The studies have been done, the evidence is there. Two launch points for you:

          http://www.damninteresting.com/the-balance-of-risk

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Risk_compensation

    4. Mr. Ed

      Yes, I have been distracted by most of those...

      ... including badgers. But none of them compare to trying to text someone while driving. Phones are bad, texting much worse in my experience. Excepting falling asleep, I think that has to top all other distractions.

  3. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Big Brother

    "Must do something" activist politicians in no result shocker!

    But hey, it keeps the cops and bureaucrats alive and well-fed.

  4. Steen Hive
    Flame

    Distraction

    Allowing yourself to be distracted while driving is careless driving - why don't we have a law against..... oh wait.

    Truth be told these "texting" and mobile phone laws are - like all other such legislation - just a pile of populist arse.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    "...to swatting bees..."

    I tell you what - bees need to be banned from cars. They're dangerous, that's what they are, and it's high time we did something about it.

  6. clod computing is big

    Laws don't change behavior. Enforcement might.

    In the states with laws, how many prosecutions and convictions did they lead to?

    France has had laws banning women from wearing trousers since 1799 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/7677686/Paris-trouser-ban-for-women-could-be-lifted.html

    So why do women in France still sometimes wear trousers? Because the law has never been enforced.

    1. Tony Humphreys
      Go

      Damn straight

      I, for one, demand that the French enforce this law.

  7. JP19

    Something must be done

    You can't legislate common sense into people. The best you can do it try to educate.

    This doesn't stop the 'something must be done' brigade who don't care if what they do makes things better or worse.

    All they care about is appearing to do something because in this politically correct bullshit world doing something which makes matters worse is less of a crime than doing nothing and appearing not to care.

    1. Tony Humphreys
      Stop

      Why?

      Perhaps people dont care about thedanger, and accept that risk when they go on the roads.

      If you dont accept the risk, there is always the train!

      People want to lead risky lives, its what adds excitement, and the more we ban / limit / educate (patronise) against risk, the more people want to break free from this crap.

      I dont think we should do anything!

      1. PhilBarker

        Whose risk

        You do not have any more right to use the road than I do and you certainly do not have the right to decide how much I should be put at risk when I use the road. I hope you live a long way from me.

      2. Someone Else Silver badge
        WTF?

        Train?!? Whazzat?

        Tony, you're obviously a Continental. Come to the Colonies some day and see if that "train" statement makes any sense in this context.

  8. Dennis SMith
    Unhappy

    Gee, what a surprise!

    I think the solution is for cell phones to be disabled while in a moving vehicle. Make them divert calls to voicemail automatically, and text messages similarly held until the car is stopped or turned off. I know that I am distracted trying just to talk on my cell while driving, and normally let it ring and call back when I am stopped. I would NEVER try to text and drive. I don't text anyway, it takes longer to type in that it's worth.

    Personally I feel cell phones are the single most disruptive factor in modern life. Just look at how teenagers are addicted to their phones and texting. Studies have conclusively shown that their schoolwork suffers due to their preoccupation with the devices.

    1. Steve X
      FAIL

      disable phones in moving vehicles

      I'm sure that would go down well with my wife, chatting on her phone in the passenger seat while I drive. And what about the morning commuters on the bus?

      1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge
        Coat

        Easy..

        "And what about the morning commuters on the bus?" - well, it's high time they stop distracting me when doing the crosswords..

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        It used to be...

        You talked with your fellow travelers on the journey.

        Does your wife hate you so much she'd rather talk to other people?

      3. Ceiling Cat
        Badgers

        This is not a title.

        > And what about the morning commuters on the bus?

        And what about them? I, for one, don't need to hear how sh*tcanned Suzie the office tramp got last night, the gory details of someone's broken arm, or anything involving the politics in anyone's office.

        I wonder sometimes, if people have become convinced that they will cease to exist if they don't communicate with someone 24-7-365 (366 on leap years).

        Badgers!

    2. Gaz Jay
      Thumb Down

      "Gee, what a surprise"

      I'm guessing that you ARE actually surprised and was not being sarcastic. Because the results in the article WERE surprising. You would expect that there would be a drop in accidents in the states that banned texting, the the inverse is true.

  9. Martin 19
    Badgers

    Bans don't work

    How about perhaps better driving education instead of blanket lowest-common-denominator rules like "you will never use a phone in a car even while stuck in traffic" or "you will never exceed 40mph here whatever the conditions" that make the numpties think they are perfect drivers if only they OBEY.

    @Matt89 Badgers are a bloody hazard. I know for a fact that hitting one is good for neither badger nor mondeo. :(

  10. Bucky 2
    Pint

    Don't call me Shirley

    Surely a better measurement of how many accidents happen on the roads would be the police department's records. I simply wouldn't trust an insurance company's data if it reported that the sky was blue.

    1. Eddy Ito Silver badge
      Grenade

      Shirley you jest

      Police departments don't keep any better track. Half the time little dingers that don't stop traffic or require medical attention are brushed aside because there are more important things to do. You know like ignoring those burglary reports, "yes, yes, please come down to the station and fill out fourteen copies of this pointless form that we will misplace in case you call to follow up and we can request you fill out another fifteen copies until you get the fact that nobody else cares unless someone died or we can get some big bucks like confiscating 'drug' property. Half an ice day."

  11. Shak

    You can spot a phone user a mile away

    Perhaps the reason why they don't cause accidents is because others tend to drive more defensively around them.

    Regardless of the accident rate, they should still be banned if only to stop irritating road use.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    Obeyed?

    I don't know about the US, but here in Canada we have had new phone/texting distraction laws recently enacted and I can't honestly say that I've noticed any change in the behaviour of drivers. They still openly use mobile phones while driving.

    It's like speeding: if they think that there is a good change they can get away with it, they will continue to do it.

    1. MadonnaC

      Yep

      The state I reside in has had a texting ban since January. The county announce recently they have imposed fines on 12 people.

      I would like to know what roads they drive on - I can see that many on my 2 mile commute home

    2. Kevin 6

      yea here too

      We had cell phone bans in place for over a year, and texting bans for a few months. I've yet to see anyone actually get pulled over for wither as they don't even bother hiding it. Hell I usually see the cops driving and talking or texting on their phones while people drive through red lights in front of them...

      My cities police force is in a very sad state.

  13. Andrew Stevenson

    Enforcement?

    Did the study take into account the levels of enforcement of the bans?

    Just because a law is made doesn't mean people will change what they do.

  14. Boyd Crow

    Maybe the problem is growing very rapidly

    It seems likely to me that the problem of texting while driving has actually increased during the interval since the laws were passed. States with a bigger initial perceived problem were more likely to pass laws. Inferring that the laws somehow exacerbate the problem is criminal. This is an epidemic; make no mistake about it.

    1. veti Silver badge

      Not in this survey

      The US provides a good laboratory for testing this question while eliminating that kind of variable, because some states have the laws while others don't.

      If accident rates in states with bans increase, while there is no corresponding increase in neighbouring states that don't have bans, then you can reasonably conclude that "it might have been even worse without $THING_I_WANT_TO_DEFEND" is *not* a valid argument.

      1. Someone Else Silver badge
        Coat

        Pick yer own title

        Somehow, I don't think comparing the accident rates in Wyoming to those in Illinois would present a decent correlation, regardless of the hoops you jumped through to isolate the dependent variable....

        1. Steen Hive
          FAIL

          Dependent variable

          The dependent variable is the relative change in accident rates per state pre and post ban. There - I isolated that for you.

  15. Dazed and Confused

    if you want to reduce distractions in cars

    The number 1 thing you need to do is to make it illegal to transport children in them.

    Trying to sort out your kids is far more distracting than using a mobe.

    1. Mike Richards

      A horrible overreaction and infringing their human rights

      A much more humane approach would be to simply chloroform children before setting off. If your local pharmacist can't help a bottle of vodka per child is extremely effective and has the additional benefit of introducing your kids to adult life in modern Britain.

      1. chr0m4t1c

        That reminds me a bit

        Of something that Rita Rudner once said (at least I think it was her):

        "They should ban eating and driving instead of drinking and driving. At least people who drink and drive are /trying/ to drive."

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    Why are new parents allowed to drive?

    They can barely keep their eyes open, string a sentence together, or remember what day it is.

    They live in a zombified state of sleep deprivation.

    But apparently we let these zombies drive?

    PS "claims going down" does not equate to "accidents going down". If you've been in a *small* accident and you were texting, you'll be well keen to have it forgotten (or "here's a hundred quid, would that cover it"), rather than to get insurance firms involved and have to lie on record. That seven percent drop is the number of crashers who were using their mobiles, I mean, DUH!

    1. Paul Johnston

      What is new?

      Please tell me when being new stops and I will get some bloody sleep?

      P.S. Catch the train into work !

  17. furlow

    Some drivers are just dangerous, they need to take responsibility

    At the end of the day the gov can want to lower car crashes, but its one of those hard to enforce laws, you have to entrust that they are going to keep them, which is obv not that case.. You have to be able to change peoples actual concerns when they drive for their own safety, rather than just imposing laws you can't enforce. Abit bit of propaganda might help!

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    (untitled)

    The soultion ? Hands free system with speech to text facility for texting on the move. (Or any time you want to give your thumb a rest.)

  19. JaitcH
    Unhappy

    At least Pedetrian texters usually only suffer embarassment

    It.s bad enough having pedestrians walking around, texting, and crashing into sign and lamp posts, other sidewalk users and occasionally into the roadway but in the city in which I often find myself we have a motorcycle population of 4,000,000 (yes 4 million) and around 390,000 cars.

    Notwithstanding the fact that if caught the fine can represent about one-fifth of a minimum monthly wage, everyone seems to answer their hand-phones within two rings and happily drive along testing with the left-hands (rear brakes) whilst steering with their right hand (accelerator and front brake).

    Even though my set of wheels has a cell jammer, it is ineffective in stopping message entering, of course. I have seen all manner of collisions yet the plague of distracted drivers continue, in addition to the fact that most Vietnamese drive as they did when they only rode a bicycle.

    The good thing is these idiots often get seriously hurt but at 13,000 countrywide deaths annually, it will take a lot of time to eliminate these cell users!

    1. CaptainHook
      WTF?

      Distraction

      "Even though my set of wheels has a cell jammer, it is ineffective in stopping message entering, of course. I have seen all manner of collisions yet the plague of distracted drivers continue"

      You mean like the distraction cause by their cell phone suddenly losing it's signal and the driver looking down at the screen to see whats wrong with the call they were on? No wonder you see so many accidents near you.

      1. JaitcH
        Pint

        The jammer stops them from ...

        answering and they never know their texts don't arrive.

        Besides I have a large pointy bumper of the from of my motor-scooter and a wide hitch draw-bar across the rear!

  20. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge
    WTF?

    I quite like Badgers.

    I'd be quite happy to receive a text or call from somebody while driving... anyone...

    Please...

    Someone...

    Hello??

    The Badgers are massing from the South...

  21. Pahhh
    Stop

    @Why are new parents allowed to drive? #

    Well, I think new "Zombie" parents are quite safe albeit very slow. Having a newborn baby sundenly gives you a sense of how vunerable people are and obviously how precious your new passenger is.

    I was a right jerk before I had my son. I very quickly calmed down following his birth. Tired or not, I was a safer driver. Now my son is much older and I'm back to being a complete jerk.

    Texting while driving is insane. I can see why it is banned and should be banned. Unfortunantly covert texting is even more dangerous so it kind of creates an odd situation. Dont think there is an answer.....

  22. The BigYin
    Flame

    Text-tards

    Just how bloody hard is it to NOT text and drive? How the hell did these morons ever get a licence? If they think they can use a mobile and drive at the same time, they are not fit to be on the roads. It is that bloody simple. Do not use a mobile and drive, dip-wads.

    The bigger problem, of course, is enforcing the laws. If cars had black boxes it might be possible to check logs: "2010-09-30T10:08:30Z, Impact, 70mph" correlated with phone records "2010-09-30T10:08:20Z, Text sent, recipient 'Snuggles'" would be cast iron proof that the driver was texting (assuming they were only occupant). Life ban, jail time and a massive fine would seem to be in order.

    I would not object to such a "black-box" type thing so long as it did not have some kind of up-link/continuous monitoring. Not only would it allow text-tards to be nailed to the wall (something I propose as a new national sport), it could also greatly reduce the hassle with insurance claims.

    In summary...

    When you are driving, nothing is more important than driving safely. Nothing. Not that text, not your fag, not your cola. So put the phone the hell down and *IF* it 'bings' and you think it might be urgent, bloody well pull-over and deal with it safely. Whatever little thing has just happened is not worth my (or anyone else's) life.

    A few of questions...

    1) Does anyone know if carbon reinforced motorcycle gloves can penetrate car window glass in a single blow?

    2) If so, and one does punch through said glass to remonstrate with the text-tard; can one use the defence of committing a minor crime in order to prevent a greater one?

    3) Do I need to go back on the dried frog pills?

    1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

      Logs

      "If cars had black boxes it might be possible to check logs"

      Not really necessary - there have been quite a few cases where mobile network records have been produced to demonstrate that a driver was/wasn't texting/phoning at the time of an accident. Of course, these are usually serious accidents. I suspect it's rarely worth the trouble for insurance-only events.

    2. Blofeld's Cat
      Thumb Up

      A few answers...

      > 1) Does anyone know if carbon reinforced motorcycle gloves can penetrate car window glass in a single blow?

      It depends if you have a piece of grit accidentally stuck to them.

      > 2) If so, and one does punch through said glass to remonstrate with the text-tard; can one use the defence of committing a minor crime in order to prevent a greater one?

      With sufficient force, accuracy and good timing, this question will not arise.

      > 3) Do I need to go back on the dried frog pills?

      Yes - try one of mine.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      ummm...

      1) depends on the car... Mondeo - yes, Hyundai Accent - no

      2) unfortunatly prob. not

      3) wibble

  23. Alistair MacRae
    Joke

    It all makes sence

    Clearly there were some drivers texting others so they'd avoid accidents. Now without these texting protectors the accidents are stacking up.

    "OMG M8 U R OVRTKNG @ A BLND CRNER UR GNNA CRSH LOLZ"

  24. SynicNZ
    FAIL

    it seems that everyone has missed the point

    The data is based on insurance claims. If texting is illegal then you will not be writing on your insurance claim that you were texting at the time of the accident - instant decline of claim.

    The report makes inferences that are just plain bollocks.

  25. Mark Eaton-Park
    Joke

    The solution :-

    The Government should provide a free text number so you can report offenders that you see whilst driving, there by at a minimum doubling the crime detection rate on each offence.

    Seriously though the solution is to make having the telephone turned on in a car an offence, that way a simple detector connected to speed cameras would identify offenders, well in the event that they bother to put film in.

  26. J Lewter

    Louisiana

    As I am from Louisiana I can say that no texting or phone ban will work..

    The coverage is so poor that you usually need to get out of the car and climb a tree to get a good signal.. Perhaps the increase in accidents is now due to people spending more time in cars and less time in trees?

    The recent natural gas boom in louisiana has also enabled a lot of people to buy insurance for the first time (I Know where I am from that there are more vehicles WITHOUT insurance than with). So it could just be that they can finally afford to have insurance to make fraudulant claims ;P...

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    Drifty McDrift

    My wife's a great driver. Never had an accident. Caused thousands but never had an accident.

  28. Colin Millar
    Thumb Down

    Proper analysis might help

    Trends have been completely ignored in a search for a good headline.

    From a quick look at the IIHS/HDLI own site it is apparent that the most reliable conclusion is that the changes in the laws have had zero effect. Trends have remained stable across all states before and after the law changes. Even spiking remains within very similar parameters.

    This is not surprising given that awareness of the issues around texting/phoning distractions has been raised effectively over a number of years and that it is this awareness that is more likely to achieve widespread changes in behaviours rather than poorly enforced laws.

  29. max allan

    Phones while driving are a bad thing

    I drive to/from work along a motorway and most days there is some idiot in the middle lane getting slower and slower (down to about 40-50) and as you pass them you can quite clearly see that they are on the phone. Either talking or texting.

    (Alternatively, someone in front slams on the anchors and veers wildly through traffic to the "slow" lane without looking in mirrors, to answer their phone. Because of course braking and veering on the M-way are much safer than continuing on your course at the same speed...)

    I always find it amusing that American road safety people suggest that phones aren't as dangerous as :

    "adjusting the radio, to eating and drinking, to tending a child in the rear seat, to reading, shaving, and applying makeup, to swatting bees"

    Most of which are actually illegal in the UK, even while stationary.

    I suspect even swatting bees would come under a generic "being distracted" category!

  30. The Unexpected Bill
    Flame

    Who thinks the law doesn't apply to them?

    I haven't seen the study, but I have seen little impact from the law. When I've been driving in city areas, it seems that some motorists just don't understand that it is against the law to text while driving. I guess these people just don't understand why it could be a bad idea not to be paying full attention to the road...and they should NOT be driving as a result of such failure to comprehend even basic ideas such as this.

    There. I said it. Hang up the damn phone, put it out of your sight and DRIVE. Nothing you have to say is that important.

    I worry for those who are more vulnerable by walking, bicycling or motorcycling, as well as anyone brave enough to drive a vintage or rare automobile on the public roads.

    I hope I never have an accident with one of these people who think the law or common sense doesn't apply to them, because they will hear it. And they may well end up needing to be treated for an injury caused by a strategically placed cellular handset.

  31. W. Keith Wingate

    Drive now talk (/text/...) later....

    .... is the slogan of the guys at "Car Talk Plaza" http://www.cartalk.com/ and I'd have to agree.

    Driving big, automatic, gas-guzzling living rooms on wheels on very expensive highways allows one to be a bit too insulated from the task at hand. ANYONE would bored driving across the Texan pan-handle, not to mention Kansas. You need to take frequent breaks, and really concentrate on paying attention, and pull-over to attend to those distractions you can't avoid.

    Driving the autobahn in a Fiat 600 say, is a bit more engaging. Texting while driving in any European or Asian city is unimaginable to me (not to mention if you're required to use the "wrong" [as in "not right!"] side of the road :-) ). But then, I pull over to talk cell calls (or better, call them back) even in suburbs...

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    First Things first

    First Things first, I was shocked when they imposed this law in my state. It never occured to me that someone could be that stupid.

    anyway, I agree with the first poster. the other day on my way home, a young lady behind me was driving really bad, was on my rear the whole time, almost tapped me more than once. she was also going over the lines quite often and I noticed she never was looking ahead, always had her head down. at first I thought she was on drugs or drunk.

    When we finally came to a location where the road becomes a 4 lane, she passed me and I could see she had a cell phone or texting device on the bottom portion of her steering wheel. so she was driving by holding the bottom of her steering wheel and using her thumbs to text.

    she left me in the dust and I was doing 60MPH easy, and the whole time she was in my sights in front of me she never lifted her head, and kept going across the lines.

    before it was relatively easy to see people texting while they drive because they held it up at the top of the steering wheel, now they seem to be trying to hide it. i guess this is going to be the 21rst centuries version of DUI.

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