Have Texting Bans Made Our Roads More Dangerous?

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Chris Usher for TIME

New research shows that crashes are still on the rise, even with anti-texting laws in place. 

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety plans to present information this week at the annual Governors Highway Safety Association meeting that highlights a slight increase in accidents since texting bans have gone into effect. Currently, 30 states (plus the District of Columbia) have banned texting while driving, but lack of enforcement have done little to curb the distracted driving habits of cell phone users.

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The Highway Loss Data Institute compared the number of collision insurance claims in California, Louisiana, Minnesota and Washington before and after anti-texting laws went into effect. According to research, crash rates rose in three of the states after the bans were put into place. The cause? Drivers continue to text from behind the wheel but lower their phones into their laps to avoid tickets, taking their eyes off the road for lengthier amounts of time and upping chances of a crash. (There were 448,000 injuries and 5,474 deaths due to distracted driving alone last year.)

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But what’s the answer if drivers are unwilling to follow bans in place for safety? U.S. Trasnportation Secretary Ray LaHood told USA Today that the bans will work to cut down on fatal collisions, in time. “Tough laws are the first step and enforcement must be next,” he said. “We know that anti-distracted-driving laws can be enforced effectively.” Just how effectively, he didn’t say.

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