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Distracted driving laws reduce teen driving fatalities

Distracted driving and an adolescent driver can be recipe for disaster, and laws have been enacted to cut down on distracted driving. A new study asks whether these laws are actually effective.

Adolescents can be some of the scariest drivers on the road because inexperience behind the wheel and the urge to text during a drive can make them dangerous to other drivers. Laws have been passed across the country to remove texting and other forms of distracted driving from that equation, and a new study in Pediatrics looks at whether these laws have had a positive effect.1

Researchers performed a retrospective time series analysis of fatal motor vehicle crashes in the United States that involved drivers and passengers aged 16 to 19 years and occurred from 2007 to 2017, using the Fatality Analysis Reporting System. They found 38,215 drivers aged 16 to 19 years who had been involved in a fatal motor vehicle crash.

Overall, the incidence of fatal motor vehicle crashes was highest among drivers aged 19 years (27.2 per 100,000 19-year-old persons) and lowest among drivers aged 16 years (10.7 out of 100,000 16-year-old persons). States that had primarily enforced texting bans were found to have lower motor vehicle fatality rates overall that involved drivers aged 16 to 19 years. Bans for texting and using handheld devices for all drivers in a state were linked to decreased motor vehicle fatalities across all age groups.

The investigators concluded that distracted driving laws were linked to a lower incidence of fatal motor vehicle accidents that involved adolescent drivers. Bans on texting and handheld devices were linked to fatality reductions in every age group. They also concluded that a universal handheld cellphone ban for all states could further reduce the national incidence of motor vehicle crash fatalities.


1.    Flaherty MR, Kim AM, Salt MD, Lee LK. Distracted driving laws and motor vehicle crash fatalities. Pediatrics. 2020;145(5):e20193621. doi: 10.1542/peds.2019-3621