Texting Bans and Reduction in Roadway Deaths

Alva O. Ferdinand, DrPH, JD School of Public Health College Station, TX   77843MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Alva O. Ferdinand, DrPH, JD
Texas A&M Health Science Center
School of Public Health
College Station, TX   77843


MedicalResearch: What are the main findings of the study?

Answer: Over the last decade, several states have enacted legislating making it illegal to text while driving. However, little is known about the impact that state texting-while-driving bans have had on roadway crash-related fatalities. Some states have banned all drivers from texting while driving while others have banned only young drivers from this activity. Furthermore, some states’ texting bans entail secondary enforcement, meaning an enforcement officer must have another reason to stop a vehicle before citing a driver for texting while driving, and other states’ texting bans entail primary enforcement, meaning an enforcement officer does not have to have another reason for stopping a vehicle.

We conducted a longitudinal panel analysis examining within-state changes in roadway fatalities after the enactment of state texting-while-driving bans using roadway fatality data as captured in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System between 2000 and 2010. To further examined the impact of these bans on various age groups, as younger individuals are thought to engage in texting while driving more often than older individuals. States that had enacted texting-while-driving bans during the study period were considered “treatment” states and states that had not passed texting-while-driving bans were considered “control” states.

We found that states with primary laws banning young drivers only saw an average of an 11% reduction in roadway following the enactment of such bans during the study period. States with primary laws banning all drivers were also associated with significant reductions for those aged 15 to 21 and those who were 65 years old or older. States with secondarily enforced bans, whether banning all drivers or young drivers only, did not see any significant reductions in roadway fatalities.

MedicalResearch: Were any of the findings unexpected?

Answer: We were a little surprised to see that primarily enforced texting bans were not associated with significant reductions in fatalities among those aged 21 to 64. However, our analyses indicated that states that had passed overarching hand-held bans (i.e. bans prohibiting the use of cell phones without hands-free technology altogether) on all drivers saw significant reductions in fatalities among this particular age group. Thus, although texting-while-driving bans were most effective for reducing traffic-related fatalities among young individuals, handheld bans appear to be most effective for adults.

MedicalResearch: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Answer: Our results indicate states that have enacted texting-while-driving bans with secondary enforcement should consider revising their legislation to entail primary enforcement. Moreover, states that have not enacted any texting-while-driving are missing out on opportunities to prevent avoidable roadway deaths. Our analyses indicated reductions in total roadway fatality counts of at least 2.3% in states with these bans. This equates to an average of 19 deaths prevented per year in states with these bans.

MedicalResearch: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Answer: Our study only looked at one roadway outcome following a roadway crash — death. There are many other outcomes that can come about as a result of texting while driving. These include emergency department visits, hospitalization, minor injuries just requiring first aid at the scene of the crash, property damage and sustained injury. Future research should look at the impact of texting-while-driving bans on these more common roadway outcomes.


Alva O. Ferdinand, Nir Menachemi, Bisakha Sen, Justin L. Blackburn, Michael Morrisey, and Leonard Nelson.  (2014). Impact of Texting Laws on Motor Vehicular Fatalities in the United States. American Journal of Public Health. e-View Ahead of Print.

doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2014.301894


Last Updated on June 19, 2014 by Marie Benz MD FAAD