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Study says texting bans not working

By Rachel DePompa - bio | email
Posted by Eric Blackstock - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – A new study says crashes caused by people texting while driving are on the rise, despite a ban in Virginia.

Driving is hectic enough, but throw a cell phone in the mix and it can be downright dangerous.

Jim Nolan deals with crashed and smashed vehicles on a daily basis. He's with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in Ruckersville, Virginia. Researchers with his agency recently looked at insurance claim records in four states before and after a texting ban went into place.

"The study shows that simply adding a law on the books will not solve the problem," Nolan said.

Researchers found that the ban didn't reduce crashes. In fact, crashes from texting and driving actually went up in those states.

"One possibility is when these bans go into effect, maybe people who are texting on top of the wheel and keeping half an eye on the road are now pulling their devices down lower," Nolan said.

Nolan says in order for these bans to work, they need to be enforced. Virginia's law went into effect July 1, 2009. Since that time, Richmond police have only written one ticket for texting and driving.

In Chesterfield, there have been five violations. Henrico police have written the most tickets: catching 26 violators.

State police don't even keep track of texting and driving tickets. In Virginia, it's only a secondary offense, meaning police have to pull you over for something else in order to write the citation.

But, Nolan says even if it were a primary offense, more needs to be done to make the law affective.

"What we don't want is legislators to think, ‘Great. We solved this problem, we created a law, let's move on,'" Nolan said. "Because the law by itself, without education and without aggressive enforcement, is not working."

Currently, there are 286,000,000 cell phone owners in the United States and texting is on the rise. Last year, Americans sent 1.6 trillion text messages. That number is up 60% from the year before.

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