New study claims texting bans don't cut down on car crashes

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email.

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Is the ban on texting while driving really making our roads safer? A controversial new study says no. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says some drivers are taking risks to continue texting while behind the wheel.

In busy Downtown Honolulu, it's easy to find people multi-tasking -- walking to their destination while chatting it up on a cell phone. But catching a driver texting or talking on a hand-held device since Oahu's ban took effect is becoming more difficult.

"Drivers that may have in the past put their hands and their device up on the steering wheel to text, so that they can continue looking forward for at least part of the time, may be putting the device down on their lap to avoid detection from a police officer," Russ Rader, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, said.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety believes efforts to hide texting while driving may be making roads more dangerous. The group says three of the four states it studied -- California, Louisiana, Minnesota and Washington -- actually saw an increase in the number of collision claims filed after driver texting was outlawed.

"If lawmakers are expecting a big safety benefit from these laws, it's not likely to be coming," Rader said.

The National Safety Council says it "disagrees with any suggestion that the narrow findings of today's report are definitive evidence that all cell phone or texting bans do not and will not ever work. The study released today was performed in states at a time when consistent, uniform and effective enforcement was not in place."

Honolulu police say they have issued about 9,200 citations since the cell phone ban took effect on Oahu in July of last year.

"The Honolulu Police Department believes that the Oahu law banning the use of hand-held electronic devices while driving is an effective and enforceable law that saves lives," Maj. Thomas Nitta, commander of the HPD's Traffic Division, said.

The IIHS says applying makeup, talking to your kids in the back seat and daydreaming are equally risky activities behind the wheel.

"Distracted driving is much larger than just texting and just cell phones," Rader said. "We need to look at all of those distractions, not just carve out one type of distraction."

The state Department of Transportation says because the ban on hand-held devices in each county is relatively new, it doesn't have enough data yet on how it's impacted the rate of collisions.

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