purchase, george & murphey.

purchase, george & murphey.


Erie Car Accident Lawyers Study Disputes Effect Of Laws On Distracted Driving

September 29, 2010

Media reports about a recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the Highway Loss Data Institute suggest that anti-texting laws may not be having the effect hoped for by the law’s sponsors. A report I ran across today breathlessly reported that the study, performed in four jurisdictions that had recently passed anti-texting laws, shows that number of distracted driving related accidents actually went up after passage of the law.

The laws, the report suggests, merely cause drivers who text to do so surreptitiously, holding the phone below window level, so as to avoid detection by law enforcement. Holding the phone low increases distraction and thus the increase in the number of distracted driving accidents.

Nonsense, say I. The study is small and short term, covering only a period of months before and after passage of the laws. The potential for error is enormous given the small statistical sample. Moreover, no consideration was given as to enforcement technique. Under the best of circumstances, the deterrent effect of a new law takes time as enforcement and awareness penetrate the public consciousness. In many jurisdictions, these laws are “secondary” offenses, meaning that a citation can be issued only if the motorist is pulled over for another violation. Thus, enforcement may be taking even longer to have effect.

Moreover, this is not a social behavior law. Traffic laws are meant to define standards of safe conduct we expect of people who exercise the privilege of driving on public roads. That’s right. It’s a privilege, not a right. So, aside from the purported statistical impact of the law, it serves a useful purpose in clearly defining the limits of acceptable driver behavior.

Let’s not be too quick to latch on to these sensational studies. The effect of such laws and awareness campaigns related to them is incremental and takes time. The Erie car crash lawyers at Purchase, George & Murphey, P.C. are firmly supportive of laws that restrict texting while driving.