A new study is showing that car accident deaths among teenagers in the United States have dropped by one-third during a period when the number of U.S. states with such laws on the books tripled. According to a HealthDay News report, researchers investigating the effect of distracted driving laws on car accident trends found that states which had “primary-enforced” distracted driving laws had lower fatal crashes involving 16- to 19-year-old drivers and passengers.
Link Between Laws and Drop in Fatalities
“Primary” distracted driving laws are those that authorize the police to pull over a driver specifically because of a distracted driving infraction. In all, 40 states had that kind of law in place to ban texting while driving by 2017. By that year, six other states had so-called “secondary” texting bans on the books, meaning distracted driving could only be cited if a driver was already pulled over for another reason. Beyond texting alone, 34 states banned all cellphone use among novice drivers by 2017 while 12 states had banned all cellphone used among drivers of all ages.
In order to assess the impact of these distracted driving laws, the team of researchers reviewed statistics on 38,000 fatal crashes, drawn from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) data. They indicated that between 2007 and 2017, the overall teen car crash death rate amounted to about 20 for every 100,000 drivers. That rate was far higher among 19-year-olds than among 16-year-olds.
Year-by-year, however, the overall teen rate dropped considerably, from a high of almost 30 per 100,000 in 2007 to 18.7 per 100,000 by 2018. And according to data collected by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), that development coincided with the addition of distracted driving bans in 32 states. Primary statewide texting bans were linked to a 29% drop in teen accident death rate while secondary texting bans were linked with a 20% drop, the study found.
The Role of Parents
Researchers say parents would be well advised to use distracted driving laws as an opportunity to initiate a conversation with their teen drivers about the dangers of distracted driving. Distractions not only include cellphones but also eating, watching videos, talking to passengers, or fiddling with radio or GPS controls while driving. In addition, it is important that parents set an example for their kids by walking their talk. Advocates say the best way to prevent distracted driving car accidents and deaths is to combine these laws with good enforcement and safety education.
Distracted driving also amounts to negligence. If you have been injured by a distracted driver, you may be able to seek compensation for damages such as medical expenses, lost income, hospitalization, cost of rehabilitation, pain and suffering and emotional distress. An experienced car accident lawyer will be able to advise injured victims regarding their legal rights and options.