I was wrong... sort of. Last month, I suggested there could be a connection between U.S. House candidate Kristi Noem's habitual lawbreaking and her votes against texting-while-driving bans in the South Dakota Legislature. I stand by my contention there that Noem's disregard for the law may incline her to vote against holding other drivers accountable for dangerous behavior.
However, my original argument did not anticipate this study, which finds texting-while-driving bans do not reduce the number of highway crashes. The study actually finds a slight uptick in insurance claims for vehicle damage in three of the four states surveyed. The researchers speculate that thumb-typing addicts are not only ignoring the bans but using their devices in their laps, out of view of the cops, thus taking their eyes that much more off the road.
So what's the proper response? It's clear that texting behind the wheel is dangerous. Even if we can't stop people from doing it, we should hold accountable the folks we catch doing it. If people respond to a law against bad behavior by behaving worse, do we abolish the law? Do we seek other ways to curtail the bad behavior? Or do we conclude that the law isn't tough enough and stiffen the penalty?
Bonus Highway Mayhem: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which was involved with the texting-ban study, celebrated its fiftieth anniversary last year by crashing a 1959 Chevrolet Bel Air into a 2009 Chevrolet Malibu. Good old American steel against modern plastic—that couldn't be pretty, could it? Well, it wasn't... for the dummy driving the tail fins. Both cars were totaled, but the passenger compartment in the Malibu remained almost wholly intact, while the passenger compartment in the Bel Air crumpled into the driver. See video with commentary here.
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