Texting ban has had an impact

An analysis of crashes in which at least one driver was using an electronic device shows significant reductions in both injuries and deaths since Oklahoma’s law banning texting by drivers went into effect.

When the months just before the texting law’s implementation are compared with the months directly afterwards:

  • Total crashes in which a driver was distracted by an electronic device fell 12.5 percent, from 1,291 to 1,129
  • Injury crashes of this type plunged 21.6 percent, from 538 to 422
  • The number of fatal crashes dropped 30 percent, from 10 to 7
  • Non-injury crashes fell 5.8 percent, from 743 to 700.

“This Tuesday (November 1) marked the one-year anniversary of the landmark legislation making it illegal for drivers in Oklahoma to use a handheld cell phone to send or read texts, emails or to send or look at photos or videos,” said Chuck Mai, spokesman for AAA Oklahoma. “The causes of motor vehicle crashes are many and varied but it’s clear that Oklahomans are thinking twice before picking up their cell phone while driving. Lives are being saved, injuries are being prevented and families are being saved the anguish of traffic collisions.”

The Oklahoma Highway Safety Office looked at crashes involving drivers using electronic devices in Oklahoma from Nov. 2014 through July 2015 and compared those monthly numbers with the same types of crashes from Nov. 2015 through July 2016.

The state’s ban on texting by drivers went into effect on Nov. 1, 2015. The OHSO data for 2016 are preliminary and subject to change.

“Despite the improvements in Oklahoma’s crash rates, distracted driving is still a huge problem,” said Mai. “Parents need to get involved and impress upon their teenage drivers the grave risks involved in cell phone use behind the wheel. And children need to speak up when they see adult drivers using cell phones to talk or text. The pervasiveness of a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ attitude toward distracted driving highlights the need to spread awareness of the dangers involved. It’ll take all of us working together to increase safety on our roadways.”

Drivers who are texting are 23 times more likely to crash or get into a near-crash situation than drivers who are not texting, according to a 2009 Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study.

The risks these drivers are taking are enormous. Their hands are off the wheel, their eyes are off the road and their minds are a thousand miles away.

Many believe that hands-free phones are safer than handheld phones. But research studies by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety at the University of Utah have shown that the primary distraction is cognitive – it’s not holding the phone, it’s holding the conversation. Hands-free is far from risk-free.