In June of 2020, the MassGeneral Hospital for Children published a report regarding how texting bans may affect the number of fatal motor vehicle accidents involving teenage drivers. According to the researchers, the average number of teen driving accidents decreased as states increasingly implemented bans on texting while driving. In addition to providing accident statistics, the report also highlights the dangers of distracted driving among teenagers in the United States.
Details of the Study
The MassGeneral Hospital study examined the link between texting and driving laws and fatal crashes involving drivers between the ages of 16 and 19. To accomplish this, the organization examined over 38,000 fatal teen driving accidents that occurred between 2007 and 2017. The research revealed that states with enforced texting bans experienced a lower rate of motor vehicle collisions in both teens and drivers overall. Notably, the researchers found that implementing bans on hand-held devices proved to be the most effective legislation for reducing fatal accidents among teenage drivers. However, the research notes that enforcing bans on both texting while driving and general handheld device use could decrease motor vehicle fatality rates across all age groups.
The Dangers of Distracted Driving
The MassGeneral Hospital research brings to light the dangers of texting while driving. In addition to texting, there are several other uses for a cellphone that could be distracting to a vehicle operator, such as calling or using social media.
“Using a cellphone while driving can significantly reduce an individual’s ability to respond to changes in driving conditions,” says Attorney Mike Hancock of Hancock Injury Attorneys. “This can increase the likelihood of becoming involved in a fatal car accident. Especially for inexperienced drivers, maintaining your focus on the road is critical to staying safe.”
According to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute, cell phone use while behind the wheel could reduce brain activity associated with driving by nearly 40 percent. Additionally, a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that students who reported frequently texting while driving were also less likely to wear a seatbelt and more likely to drive after consuming alcohol.
Cell Phone Use Bans Across States
According to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Consumer and Governmental Affairs office, 21 states as well as the District of Columbia ban drivers from using a hand-held phone while operating a motor vehicle. Additionally, 48 states and D.C. specifically prohibit the use of texting while driving. However, the researchers for MassGeneral Hospital note that some texting bans are secondarily enforced, meaning that law enforcement can only cite drivers if they are pulled over for another offense. Other common types of distracted driving bans include cell phone use bans for novice drivers, and laws prohibiting school bus drivers to operate a cell phone while driving.
Ways to Prevent Distracted Driving
There are several preventative measures that drivers could take to avoid becoming distracted behind the wheel. To minimize potential distractions from a phone, an individual could turn their phone on silent or put it on a “do not disturb” feature. Additionally, to reduce distractions from music or radio, some safe driving experts recommend that individuals create driving playlists ahead of time to reduce the need to change the song on a phone or radio.