Since the 1990s when cellphone use became widespread, we have known that using a cellphone while driving a car is unsafe because it pulls our attention away from our surroundings. Almost all U.S. states have laws against cellphone use while driving; these bans vary from state to state.

The first ban on talking on a handheld cellphone while driving was put in place by New York state in 2001. The first ban specifically aimed at texting was implemented by Washington, D.C. in 2008.

Maryland has banned handheld cell phone use while driving, hand-held and hands-free cell use for novice drivers, and texting while driving for all drivers.

Such bans are intended to make the roads safer from distracted drivers. But are they effective?

A 2014 meta-study by the Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine aimed to find out.

Which types of laws are effective?

To begin with, researchers addressed the question of whether bans aimed at changing drivers’ behavior have historically been effective. State laws with “publicized strong enforcement” have reduced driving while under the influence of alcohol, increased seat belt use and ultimately led to a decline in crash deaths.

It’s challenging to measure the effectiveness of cellphone bans and the safety risk posed by cellphone use for several reasons, a few being that multiple other aspects of a situation can contribute to a driver’s level of distraction, crashes are not always reported to the police, and people can’t be trusted to own up to cellphone use while driving, especially where it is illegal.

In one national study that examined fatal crash data in all states, with and without bans on handheld cellphones, from 2000-2010, researchers found that the bans resulted in a marked reduction in the number of people under 55 involved in fatal crashes.

Another study measured hand-held cellphone bans on all drivers, texting bans for all drivers, laws prohibiting drivers under 20 from cellphone use, and bans that restrict intermediate license holders from using cellphones. It found that all-driver bans on handheld cellphone use were very effective.

Even under texting bans, people persist

Unfortunately, people seem to persist in texting while driving even if they’re breaking a law. “There is scant evidence of the effects of texting bans on the rates of drivers’ texting,” the study’s authors note.

Laws against forms of distracted driving such as cellphone use can sometimes reduce dangerous practices that put more people on the road at risk, but even with the most well-intentioned and enforceable laws, people still exhibit negligence and cause crashes. If you or a loved one have been injured in a crash that was the fault of a negligent driver, call the experienced attorneys at Alpert Schreyer, LLC for your free case evaluation. We will listen to you, review your case, and get you the compensation you deserve.