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Unintended Consiquences – The Texting Ban

Government policy always leave unintended consequences. That’s as much a fact of life as anything. So it should come to no surprise, except to those that believe laws written by politicians can fundamentally change human behavior, that the cell phone texting ban craze that has been swiffering (Dane Cook reference) the nation hasn’t had the effect the politicians so desperately wanted. According to a recent study published by the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), texting bans have the opposite effect of what was intended. DOH!

It’s illegal to text while driving in most US states. Yet a new study by researchers at the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) finds no reductions in crashes after laws take effect that ban texting by all drivers. In fact, such bans are associated with a slight increase in the frequency of insurance claims filed under collision coverage for damage to vehicles in crashes. This finding is based on comparisons of claims in 4 states before and after texting bans, compared with patterns of claims in nearby states.

Policies like these are paternalistic and the object of love and adoration for progressives. Yes, I said Progressives, because paternalism has its followers in the Democratic, GOP parties and with so-called “Independent” politicians. Yes, that’s a shot at Michael Bloomburg. Remember kids, Progressives gave us Prohibition. How did that turn out?

So it’s no surprise that this study is meet with anger by the politicians that want to tell you what to do.

“Last Thursday, I blogged about misleading claims from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) disparaging the effectiveness of good laws and good enforcement in our campaign to end distracted driving,” LaHood wrote in his blog “The FastLane,” this morning. “Unfortunately, they’re at it again today with another misleading ‘study,’ ” LaHood continued. “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.”

Fortunately, the Department of Transportation can help on that front, and we can prove that good laws coupled with tough enforcement can reduce deadly distracted driving behavior. In April, we launched pilot enforcement campaigns, called “Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other” in Hartford, CT and Syracuse, NY.

In the last six months alone, hand held cell phone use has dropped 56% in Hartford and 38% in Syracuse; and texting while driving has declined 68% in Hartford and 42% in Syracuse.

Of course Sec LaHood doesn’t tell you that his statistics are flawed as well. They are based on police reports. Now put the HLDI study and the decline in tickets together and what do you have?

People will put their cell phones down when they see a cop, or just lower their phone so that it’s hidden. People will continue to do, what they always do. Banning texting while driving will not stop people from doing it. Just like banning alcohol didn’t stop people from drinking in the 20s. Just like banning Cocaine didn’t stop out POTUS from skiing in college.

The only real way to stop people from distracted driving is to change the incentives. Kind of like what Ford is doing with their Sync system. I talked about it in this post, I also mentioned how I would like to see a study done of accident rates of people white texting with Sync systems in their cars and those without. We now know that the bans aren’t working, I still have my money on the market led solutions, like Sync.

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