April 10, 2015 Kim Krisberg 18Comment

Today, nearly every state in the country has a law that bans texting while driving. But do these laws make a difference?

A group of researchers took on that question, comparing crash-related hospitalizations among states with a texting-while-driving ban and states without such a ban. And they found some encouraging results: Texting bans were associated with a 7 percent reduction in crash-related hospitalizations among all age groups, especially among those ages 22 to 64. To conduct the study, which was published in the May issue of the American Journal of Public Health, researchers examined data from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample from 19 states between 2003 and 2010 and compared crash-related hospitalizations in states after the implementation of a texting ban to states with no texting ban.

The researchers noted that 416,000 of the more than 2.3 million U.S. residents who sought medical care after a motor vehicle crash in 2009 reported that the crashes involved a distracted driver. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration defines distraction as activities that divert a driver’s attention away from the task of driving, such as cell phones, navigation systems or talking with passengers. While previous research has examined the associations between texting bans and crash-related fatalities as well as texting bans and insurance collision claims, the researchers wrote that this may be the first study to examine the impact of texting bans on crash-related hospitalizations. Study authors Alva Ferdinand, Nir Menachemi, Justin Blackburn, Bisakha Sen, Leonard Nelson and Michael Morrisey wrote:

In 2001, New York implemented the first state ban on talking on a handheld cell phone while driving. Several states, including California and Connecticut, followed suit. However, these early laws allowed handheld dialing and did not explicitly ban text messaging. Some states subsequently enacted legislation explicitly banning drivers from texting (reading, manually composing, or sending text messages, instant messages, or e-mails via a portable electronic device) while driving. However, because of the relative novelty of texting bans, little is known about their impact on roadway safety.

In zeroing in on the impact of texting bans, as opposed to more general bans on the use of handheld devices while driving, the study found that even after controlling for variables such as population size, states with a texting ban experienced a decrease in motor vehicle crash-related hospitalizations. However, even though texting-while-driving bans were associated with a significant reduction in hospitalizations among people ages 22 to 64, only marginal reductions were found among adolescents and young adults, those ages 15 to 21.

Overall, the researchers estimated that such reductions translate into the yearly prevention of 30 motor vehicle-related hospitalizations per studied hospital in the states with a primary texting ban. In conclusion: “Our findings suggest that states that have not passed primarily enforced texting bans should consider doing so.”

According to 2011 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 31 percent of U.S. drivers ages 18 to 64 reported having read or sent a text or email while driving in the prior month. The public health agency also reported a 9 percent increase in the number of people injured in a car crash that involved a distracted driver between 2011 and 2012.

To request of full copy of the new texting study, visit the American Journal of Public Health.

Kim Krisberg is a freelance public health writer living in Austin, Texas, and has been writing about public health for more than a decade.

18 thoughts on “Researchers: Texting and driving bans reduce crash-related hospitalizations

  1. Texting, or any use of a cellular phone, while driving is extremely dangerous and takes the driver’s attention off the road. Given the dynamic environment that roads are, things can change in seconds and a short moment of concentration loss can cause serious accidents.

    What is the punishment for someone who gets busted texting while driving?

  2. Texting while driving has become more frequent with the evolution of technology. Even though it has not been formally banned in some states, I believe people are aware that it is reckless and phones should rather be put away while travelling. The problem is that it is done so innocently, without thinking. Who doesn’t quickly check their phones to see who sent a message when you hear the familiar ‘ping’ of a whatsapp coming through? By banning texting while driving people gain a sense of awareness, this makes them think twice about texting while they are behind the wheel. I think it would help if these bans were reinforced by punishment or a bigger effort could be made to increase awareness.


  3. The reduction in crash-related hospitalizations in relation to the texting-while-driving ban is more significant but what about those accidents that are minor (do not require hospitalization). In my opinion, texting while driving causes the majority of minor accidents, luckily no one is injured but the repair costs, etc. adds up. What is the impact of the texting-while-driving ban on minor accidents?

  4. The use of a cell phone while driving is dangerous, that is not arguable. Death is at its highest because of this. Severe punishment should be introduced for people who do not follow this law to encourage others to follow it. This many reduce the high death rate caused by accidents due to the use of a cell phone while driving.


  5. The use of a cell phone while driving is dangerous, that is not arguable. Death rate is at its highest because of this. Severe punishment should be introduced to encourage people not to ignore the law of of using a cell phone while driving. This may reduce deaths and injuries caused by accidents due to the use of a cell phone while driving.


  6. The frequency of texting while driving is increasing as technology evolves. Although there has not been a formal ban placed on texting in some states, people know that this is a dangerous habit. The ban only increases awareness and this could be why there are less collisions in those states. Are the perpetrators being punished accordingly? I believe most drivers do not think of texting and driving as a serious offence.

  7. Good. Results considering that this generation we love resting no matter where and what we are doing . although I suggest that there could be more awareness concentrated on the young adults about texting and driving or using any handheld devices while driving. Does loud music in a car help with the driving and stay focus or is a distruction too? [14047366]

  8. I am not certain about other countries but in SA you get fined for texting and driving. Texting and crossing the road should be illegal too. Sometimes the driver is cautious and pedestrians are not. What happens when the pedestrian texts and walks or walks while intoxicated?

  9. Texting-and-driving has become an epidemic that is a problem all over the world, not only in the USA. It has also become a problem in South Africa, where studies have shown that while you are texting and driving your reaction time is decreasing by about 50% and you also have 91% less control of the vehicle. This epidemic increases you chance of being involved in an accident four times. While you are texting and driving you are not only putting your life in danger, but also those of the people around you. I think it is important for us to start thinking about our fellow man and stop the epidemic that is texting and driving!

  10. Could the marginal reduction in hospitilizations among adolescents and young adults aged 15 to 21 be because of the age difference? ie. Those that are older (age 22 to 26) are more prone to abide by the law or are more likely to be aware of what bans there are.

  11. Surely using bluetooth while driving is just substituting the same evil, I mean you’re still not fully concentrating on the road. At the end of the day your mind is still dwelling.


  12. Once upon a time, when texting was a New Thing, I was texting whilst walking from a hotel room to the lobby.. ended up in the kitchens, oblivious, by mistake..

    For whatever reason, texting seems an almost uniquely distracting activity.

  13. I think that accidents caused by drivers using a cellular device is because they see laws implemented against using a cellular device whilst driving as an irritation rather than a safety precaution. Unfortunately these drivers only realize how dangerous this is until they cause an accident.

    Regarding your question, Seth-Frerich Fobian, I have found that the punishment differs from country or state. According to gov.uk penalties against your licence and a fine will be recieved if found using a cellular phone whilst driving or even while waiting at a robot- this is only in the UK. It also says that new drivers may even lose their licence. The department of motor vehicles in New York says that this action will only cause a driver to get a traffic ticket.
    My question is: Is these minor punishments enough? Will this scare drivers enough to make them stop using their cellphones while driving? Will this make them understand the serious effects their actions have/
    I think not.


  14. Seth: Usually a ticket, which involves and fine and goes on your driving record.

    Washington State has had a law against texting while driving for quite a while, but the law doesn’t actually prohibit Tweeting, Facebooking or emailing. Recently a new law was up for vote in the legislature that would prohibit all of those, but it never got a vote. According to the person who proposed the law, most people were in favor of it until they realized that it would mean that they couldn’t pick up the phone in the car.

    Well, yes, that would be the point. Hopefully it will come up again next year. Maybe data like these will help.

  15. I agree entirely that texting or any use of a cell phone that acts as a distraction should be banned and heavily fined.
    Something else that is related to this that I feel very strongly against is the usage of earphones anywhere near the road. Whether the person is a pedestrian, cyclist, or driver he or she should not be allowed to be listening to music on their earphones. The reason I say this is because when you have music blasting into your ears, often you don’t take note of what is happening around you simply because you can’t hear what is happening around you.
    A simple way to see how wrong it is to wear earphones near or on the road would be to ask the question, how do cars warn people that something bad is about to happen? Well, they hoot. So if there was a cool teen crossing the road listening to the latest pop song, that warning would not be able to save their life.

  16. Driving a car is a live endangering activity. People should treat it as such. This is by focussing while at it, eliminating all possible distractions and ultimately value your life and the lives of others.
    If this had to be the atitude of divers of today, laws governing texting and driving would was not going to be passed at all.


  17. I personal feel texting while driving is a dangerous activity one can take part in, a person who is driving but not be distracted while driving. 13197721

  18. 5. I don’t think this statement needs any statistics or proof to be supported. Anyone that has ever driven a car before knows that your full attention is needed to arrive safely at your destination. Therefore it is quite obvious that you cannot text while you are driving. If you lose your focus for a second, you can cause an accident that may injure other people or even end in death. Needless to say, this will increase the number of crash-related hospitalization. To reduce the number of road accidents related to texting while driving, laws against it is necessary. It must be banned everywhere to make roads saver for the victims and the guilty ones. Drivers who are guilty of this “crime” (in most countries) should be fined with a hefty amount and be given a warning.

    To all the texters – pull of the road to send a text message if it is very important. Otherwise wait until you have parked your car at your destination or use a handsfree device to make a call or type a text message. I must say – the handsfree system on my phone has come in handy ones or twice.

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