Texting bans cut crash-related hospital stays

"Given that the texting driver may cause a crash, but may not be the one most seriously injured, restricting texting bans to young drivers only is perhaps not the best approach to preventing crash-related hospitalizations," says Alva O. Ferdinand. (Credit: raymondclarkeimages/Flickr)

Crash-related hospitalizations of both drivers and passengers go down by as much as 9 percent in states that have enacted bans on texting while driving.

For a new study, researchers examined crash-related hospitalizations before and after the enactment of state texting bans. Nineteen states were included in the study, which was based on hospital discharge data from 2003 to 2010.

Some states had passed bans on texting while driving, while other states have no such bans. The findings show that, on average, there was a 7 percent reduction in crash-related hospitalizations in states that have enacted texting-while-driving bans. Hospitalizations were reduced the most—9 percent—among 22-64 year olds and those aged 65 and older.

Not just young drivers

“Our research indicates that adults in states with a primary texting ban stand to benefit the most in terms of potentially avoiding crash-related hospitalizations,” says Alva O. Ferdinand, assistant professor in the School of Public Health at Texas A&M University.

“Given that the texting driver may cause a crash, but may not be the one most seriously injured, restricting texting bans to young drivers only is perhaps not the best approach to preventing crash-related hospitalizations.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 2.5 million adult drivers and passengers in the United States sought medical attention following involvement in a motor vehicle crash in 2012. The costs of productivity losses and medical care due to injuries sustained in motor vehicle crashes in a one-year period are more than $80 billion.

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has estimated that more than 400,000 individuals have been injured in crashes involving a distracted driver. In efforts to combat distracted driving, many states have enacted texting-while-driving bans, but very little is known about their effectiveness in improving roadway outcomes.

Previous research has shown that improvements in state unemployment rates and per capita incomes, as well as lower gasoline prices, are associated with increased crash risk.

“Because we are seeing improvements in the economy and gasoline prices are about one dollar cheaper than they were this time last year, states should be considering steps to implement policies such as texting bans that will help to offset these trends,” says coauthor Michael Morrisey, interim head of the health policy and management department.

The study is published online ahead of print in the American Journal of Public Health. Other researchers from Texas A&M and from University of Alabama Birmingham are coauthors of the study.

Source: Texas A&M University