Don’t Text and Drive to Save Young Lives

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Enforcement of laws against texting while driving sharply reduces fatalities among teenage drivers, according to a new analysis.

Researchers studied data on 38,215 drivers, ages 16 to 19, who were involved in fatal crashes from 2007 to 2017. In 2007, only 15 states had distracted driving laws. By 2017, 46 states had them in some form.

In states with primary texting laws — those that allow police to pull over and cite a driver for texting alone without another offense — the rate of teenage driver fatalities was 29 percent lower than in states with no texting laws at all. In states with only secondary texting laws, which don’t allow the police to pull you over simply because you are texting, it was still 15 percent lower.

Teenage passengers were also less likely to die where texting laws were in effect. There was a 38 percent lower fatality rate for states with primary laws, and a 27 percent lower rate for those with secondary enforcement. The study is in Pediatrics.

“It would be nice to make texting while driving as taboo as drunk driving,” said the lead author, Dr. Michael R. Flaherty, a pediatric critical care physician at MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston. “And parents should set the example for their teenagers and younger children by always refraining from using a device while driving.”

State laws vary, but according to the National Conference of State Legislatures website, Montana is today the only state with no regulations on texting while driving.