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Texting While Driving Bans Linked to Significant Decreases in Accidents, Injuries: Study

States that ban texting while driving have seen significant declines in the number of individuals treated in hospital emergency rooms as a result of a car accident, according to the findings of new research.

In a study published last week in the American Journal of Public Health, researchers from Texas A&M University indicate that states with full bans on texting while driving have an average of four percent fewer accident victims seen in emergency rooms, when compared to states that have only enacted partial bans.

To date, 47 states and the District of Columbia have banned text messaging for drivers of all ages, and 16 states and territories have laws prohibiting drivers of all ages from using hand-held cell phones while driving. Thirty eight states and the District of Columbia have implemented laws banning the use of cell phones by teen or novice drivers.

Researchers broke down the texting bans into two categories, which included primary and secondary bans. Primary bans are laws in states where drivers who are texting or have a cell phone in their hand can be stopped by police and issued a citation for the offense. Secondary bans, include states with laws that only allow an officer to stop someone texting and driving in the event they have committed another traffic violation such as speeding or running a red light.

Data collected in states with a primary texting ban were found to have a four percent decrease in motor vehicle crash emergency room visits, equating to an estimated 1,632 incidents per year. Although states with primary texting bans were found to have the least crashes resulting in emergency treatment, secondary texting bans were also found to reduce auto accidents.

One reason primary texting bans may show the highest reductions in crashes is due to the ability to enforce the law, whereas secondary ban states require additional violations to result in law enforcement action, researchers observed.

Prior studies released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have found distracted driving accounts for 94% of all automobile accidents in the U.S. with handheld mobile devices and drowsy driving among the top reasons for many highway crash fatalities.

In a study published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, researchers found teens who text while driving are more likely to engage in riskier behavior, like drinking, not wearing a seat belt or riding with a driver who is intoxicated.

The NHTSA reported in recent years that ten percent of all drivers between 15 and 19 years old involved in fatal crashes were distracted at the time of the accident, making this age range the largest proportion of drivers involved in crashes in 2013. The NHTSA findings also indicated that 480 non-occupants, mostly pedestrians, were killed by distracted drivers in 2013.

Earlier this month, a distracted driving study from the University of Missouri found that distracted drivers are nearly 30 times more likely to be involved in an accident at or near highway work zones, where lanes are typically narrower and heightened driver attention is critical. The study called for officials to research and implement behavioral countermeasures that may help reduce the risk of highway work zone accidents.

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