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Is texting while driving dangerous?

A few weeks ago I published a graph showing that our roads have actually become safer as more and more Americans use cell phones. Chatting on the phone is one thing, but surely texting behind the wheel is another. After all, we keep hearing that texting-while-driving is worse than drunk driving. And legislatures around the country are rushing to ban it.

But the fact of the matter is that as text messaging has exploded in popularity— Americans sent fewer than 60 billion texts in 2005 and more than 1.3 trillion in 2009 — fatalities from car crashes have declined. Today, are roads are safer than ever.

Here is a graph of fatal car crashes per 100 million miles driven and the average number of text messages sent per-month by Americans. The data is from the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration and the Neilson Survey.


Texting from behind the wheel is almost certainly distracting. But the same thing is true of a whole host of things we regularly cope with while driving, like playing with the radio, eating fast food and trying to clam a car full of crying kids.

It might even be the case that for old people who are bad at using cell phones some drivers, texting is more distracting than other common behind-the-wheel activites. But it not an imminent public threat.

So why is it we need to ban texting again? Oh yeah, to raise money

(Hat tip, Jake)

Previous topics mentioned in this post:

The graph the New York Times doesn’t want you to see

Is it time to ban carpooling?

The war on driving

Related Posts with Thumbnails


  1. Ok, but text messages are one reason the roads aren’t even safer.

    1. nowooski says:

      But our roads are safer than ever. Besides, all of these studies use eye-ball tracking or reaction time, not real-world data. If you ask people what is distracting, they will put cell phones way down the list–below “check out hot girls.”

  2. Jaclyn Shettler says:

    I cannot wait to collect tax revenue from people who are texting while driving. It is only a good idea.

    1. Kristian Perez says:

      LOL i totally agree!

  3. […] every American (except for technophobic old people) can chat on the cell phone or even text while driving with […]

  4. […] readers of this blog know that I am very skeptical of schemes to ban the use of cell phones in cars. After all, there is little reason to believe that […]

  5. A-hole Anon says:

    alright… but how do you know that the two are even related.

    most of the people who are sending the majority of text messages aren’t even old enough to drive yet?

    And also, only the Fatalities are dropping, not the overall number of accidents. The reason fatalities are dropping could also be due to the improved safety structures of cars these days.

    There are just too many variables to consider and to look at before you can thoroughly back up those facts

    recheck your facts

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