Study of bans’ effect misses urgency of enforcement

October 3, 2010

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RE “STUDY dismisses texting bans’ effect: Laws fail to make roads safer, report finds’’ (Metro, Sept. 28): Members of our advocacy group, FocusDriven, are shocked that the Highway Loss Data Institute and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety continue to make controversial and misleading statements about the necessity and effectiveness of states’ distracted-driving laws.

Little effort has been made to enforce anti-texting laws in the states studied. Suggesting that these laws are worthless before they are properly enforced could cause more harm than good.

As Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has said, good laws coupled with tough enforcement can reduce deadly distracted-driving behavior. In April, the US Department of Transportation launched pilot enforcement campaigns in Hartford and in Syracuse, N.Y. As a result of these efforts, handheld cellphone use while driving has dropped 56 percent in Hartford and 38 percent in Syracuse, and texting has declined 68 percent and 42 percent, respectively.

Texting is a compelling — maybe addicting — activity. We are not likely to see big changes in crash statistics without enforcement, education, and technological solutions. But we need to start somewhere. Legislation banning texting behind the wheel, coupled with significant penalties and strong enforcement, is a great start.

To the family members of distracted-driving victims who make up FocusDriven, the better headline would have been, “Texting laws don’t mean anything without tough enforcement.’’

Jennifer Smith
River Forest, Ill.

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