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Will the Law Banning Texting While Driving Reduce Auto Accidents?

In case you haven’t heard, Governor Rick Scott recently signed a bill prohibiting manual texting while driving in Florida — the new law goes into effect October 1, 2013. But many skeptics wonder if banning texting while driving will have a substantial effect on drivers’ behaviors, and, more importantly, if it will actually decrease the number of accidents that occur throughout the state.

The dangers of texting while driving are well documented:

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), distracted driving plays a role in more than nine deaths and more than 1,060 injuries every day in the United States.
  • There are three types of potential distractions while driving — visual, manual and cognitive — and texting engages all three.
  • Further statistics indicate that a whopping 23 percent of all auto accidents in 2011 involved cell phones and that texting while driving makes a collision 23 times more likely.

So outlawing texting while driving seems reasonable — but does it work to make drivers safer? Results from a study released in March 2013 reveal that the harshest texting while driving legislation is the most effective. States with the most comprehensive bans and the highest penalties saw an eight percent decrease in single vehicle, single-occupant auto accidents, while states with less extensive regulation and only minor penalties saw no significant decrease. However, the study also indicated that even in states with the most stringent anti-texting laws, effects of the bans were only temporary. After a few months, drivers reassumed their texting habits.

What does this mean for Florida? The state’s new legislation only prohibits texting and emailing while moving, but not while stopped at a red light or in traffic. Additionally, the penalties are minor — a $30 fine for a first offense and a $60 fine for a second offense. Considering the existing data, it seems that the ban may not reduce Florida auto accidents.

Attorney Steven Combs composed this post with contribution from attorney Shane Hebert. Consult a lawyer if you or a loved one was injured in an accident caused by a distracted driver.

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