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Do bans on texting while driving actually increase accidents?

By Andrew Adams  |  Posted Oct 22nd, 2012 @ 12:44pm


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SALT LAKE CITY — It's perplexing for both police and lawmakers throughout the U.S.: They want to do something about the danger of texting while driving, a major road hazard, but banning the practice seems to make it even more dangerous.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says that 3 of every 4 states that have enacted a ban on texting while driving have seen crashes actually go up rather than down.

It's hard to pin down exactly why this is the case, but experts believe it is a result of people trying to avoid getting caught in states with stiff penalties. Folks trying to keep their phones out of view will often hold the phone much lower, below the wheel perhaps, in order to keep it out of view. That means the driver's eyes are looking down and away from the road.

Whether this trend applies to Utah's roads isn't yet clear. The Utah Department of Public Safety only started tracking incidents involving texting in 2011, and the first report has not yet been issued.

It has tracked deaths related to texting, but there were none in 2010 or 2011.

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Regardless, the practice will be expensive for drivers. Information from insurance companies indicates that texting while driving increases your chance of getting in an accident by 23 times. That also means that insurance premiums are likely to increase if you text and drive.

"That risky behavior of texting while driving is kind of a sign that there's other distractions in the vehicle that can negatively impact your ability to (drive)," said Ryan Oliverson with American Family Insurance.

Oliverson says he sees claims involving texting come across his desk at an alarming rate. But exactly how much it raises rates is difficult to pin down because of other factors.

If you have a pattern of accidents over a period of time, insurance companies become a lot more likely to increase rates.

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