Research: Texting and driving bans work, if they are like Nevada’s

A recent study found that primary texting and driving bans like Nevada’s are the most effective at reducing traffic deaths.

Across the country, 46 states and Washington, D.C., have banned texting while driving on some level. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, only five of those states have enacted those laws on a secondary basis. The rest, including Nevada, have a primary texting ban.

This is an important point, as recent research from the University of Alabama at Birmingham points out. In fact, it could be the discerning factor when establishing whether or not texting bans work.

Primary vs. secondary laws

In 2014, a doctoral candidate at UAB compared the number of traffic fatalities between 2000 and 2010 with state-by-state texting while driving bans. The research took into account whether or not these laws were primary or secondary. A primary law is one for which a law enforcement officer can ticket someone based on sight alone. For example, if an officer observes someone texting behind the wheel, he or she can ticket the driver even if no other laws were broken.

A secondary law is one that can only be enforced if a primary law is broken. In a state with a secondary distracted driving law, a driver may only be ticketed for it if an officer pulls him or her over for an infraction such as speeding.

Key findings

The study found the following regarding texting bans:

  • States with a primary ban targeting young drivers led to an 11 percent decline in the number of traffic fatalities among 15- to 21-year-olds.
  • Primary bans in general reduced traffic deaths in all age groups by 3 percent.
  • There was no significant change in fatalities in states where texting bans were secondary.

Researchers also learned that states that put bans on all handheld phones saw a significant decrease in traffic fatalities among 21- to 64-year-olds.

Nevada law

Nevada has one of the strictest distracted driving laws in place. No one in the state is permitted to use a handheld device to text, talk on the phone or access the Internet. This is a primary ban punishable by a fine of $50 for the first offense, $100 for the second offense and up to $250 for third and subsequent offenses.

The law does make an exception for drivers in certain situations. For example, someone experiencing a medical emergency or reporting a crime is allowed to use a phone. Additionally, emergency medical staff, law enforcement officers and firefighters acting within the scope of their duty are permitted to use a handheld device.

These laws are in place due to the serious risk that distracted driving poses. Thousands of people are killed or injured every year due to a driver who takes his or her focus off the road. Anyone with questions regarding this matter should speak to a personal injury attorney in Nevada.