Nearly three years after Massachusetts implemented a ban on texting while driving, nearly 40 percent of drivers in the state say they still send text messages when behind the wheel, according to a March survey of 500 drivers released Monday. Ignorance of the law isn’t the major reason since 80 percent of the survey respondents said they knew it was illegal to do this.
(A no texting law went into effect in New York on June 1, and other states are also considering such measures triggered by a rise in fatal accidents caused by texting.)
About 1 in 4 drivers who responded to the survey said the state law hadn’t influenced their mobile device usage while driving. The law also banned all cell phone use in drivers under 18.
If you’re caught texting—even while stopped at a traffic light—police can ticket you with a $100 fine in Mass., and drivers under 18 can have their licenses suspended for up to 60 days.
In the survey, female drivers were more likely to report texting than men, and those under age 45 were more likely to skirt the law than older drivers. More than a third of respondents perceived texting and driving to be significantly less dangerous than drunk driving despite research showing that the risks of both are comparable.
Yet, the respondents were clearly aware that texting makes them worse drivers since nearly all of them said they wouldn’t text and drive with children in the car.
They’re willing to put strangers on the road at risk with their texting behaviors, but not their own children, said Chris Olie, president and CEO of Plymouth Rock Assurance, the Boston-based insurance company that conducted the survey.
Olie hopes that increased awareness about the lack of compliance with the law—in addition to lower insurance premiums for safe drivers—will encourage drivers to put down their mobile devices.
Deborah Kotz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @debkotz2.