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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Guest Editorial: Texting and Driving Bans are Abusive

Texting and Driving Bans are Abusive
By Craig Dawkins

February 18, 2011

The Oklahoma State Senate jumped on the ‘no texting while driving’ bandwagon when the Public Safety Committee approved Senate Bill 146 this week. Texting and driving bans have been approved in 30 other states and it appears that Senator Jerry Ellis –D, Valliant, wants Oklahoma to follow their lead.

Ellis cites discussions with people who’ve witnessed texting drivers driving badly. Perhaps they have. But I’ve witnessed many people driving badly while eating, applying makeup, lighting cigarettes, reading books, talking to people in the back seat, looking at attractive females, and I could go on. I’ll bet you’ve seen that too. So do we need to ban all of those things as well?

To make matters worse, the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) released a study in September of 2010 that compared states that have banned texting and driving with states that do not. The study concluded that states with texting bans experienced increased insurance claims compared with states without bans. The reason? Texting drivers, in order to avoid fines, simply moved their phones further out of sight which caused their eyes to peer further away from the road than before the ban.

HLDI isn’t a partisan organization. They simply gather insurance and highway safety statistics. So why are we considering texting bans? Because it’s something politicians believe to be popular with voters. But impartial data shows that bans actually make us worse off.

These vote seeking, do-gooder Republican and Democrat politicians pretend they can actually make us feel safer by passing texting and driving bans despite the evidence that bans will likely result in more harm. But these new laws will most certainly increase revenue for governmental entities that would love the opportunity to collect more ticketing revenues by enforcing texting bans.

Senate Bill 146 will not make us safer. It will result in more accidents and harm to Oklahomans. There will be more harassment by municipalities looking for additional ticketing revenues. Don’t fall for the idea that politicians know how to protect us more than we know how to protect ourselves.

Here’s an idea. How about the police and other law enforcement agencies start aggressively enforcing existing reckless driving laws?  

Craig Dawkins is a professor of economics and finance, a policy analyst and activist for a freer society.