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Study Saying Text Bans Don't Reduce Crashes Provokes LaHood Ire

Tuesday, September 28, 2010 - 03:35 PM

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) A week after Ray LaHood’s national Distracted Driving Summit, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's Highway Loss Data Institute has released a study that says not only do texting bans NOT reduce car crashes, they may in fact increase them.

The study compares claims in four states (California, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Louisiana, which were among the first to enact texting bans) with patterns of claims in nearby states. The president of the HLDI and IIHS, Adrian Lund, says the study shows that "neither texting bans nor bans on hand-held phone use have reduced crash risk...(the states are) focusing on a single manifestation of distracted driving and banning it. This ignores the endless sources of distraction and relies on banning one source or another to solve the whole problem."

DOT Secretary Ray LaHood has come out swinging on Twitter. “Anyone else wondering what passes for auto safety "research" and "analysis?” he tweeted earlier today, followed up by "Post hoc, ergo propter hoc." Then: "If my use of Latin seems over the top, try this: That dog just won't hunt." He writes on his blog: "From 2005 to 2008, distraction-related fatalities as a proportion of all traffic fatalities jumped from 10% to 16%. In 2009, for the first time in four years, that percentage was stabilized. That leveling off coincided with our national anti-distracted driving campaign, other public education efforts, and an increasing number of state anti-distracted driving laws."

Meanwhile, the annual meeting of the Governors Highway Safety Association is happening this week in Kansas City. We spoke to Jonathan Adkins, their communications director, to ask what the GHSA reaction to the IIHS study was, and if it made states want to back away from texting bans. "Not at all," he said. "The laws aren't bad, but they’re not working yet, and we need more funding to enforce them," he said. Not to mention more research. "We want to take the emotion out of this," Adkins added. "Emotion does not make good policy. What does is data and experience."

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