Maine lawmakers should not get frightened by a study that suggests that accident rates go up when states ban texting by drivers.

This should not be seen as a reason not to ban texting — but a sign of how serious this problem really is and why we need a ban here.

According to the Highway Loss Data Institute, there was a small uptick in accident rates in four states that implemented what the Maine Legislature will consider next year when it takes up a bill sponsored by Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham.

What the study’s authors guess is that some drivers try to be more sneaky in the way they read and write text messages when they face a penalty. That extra “caution” might move their eyes even farther from the road, creating the circumstances for a crash.

This data is proof that there is a generation of people who are so addicted to their electronic devices that they cannot put them aside even when they are behind the wheel of a car or truck. If something is not done, this incredibly dangerous practice will get more widespread.

The study lawmakers should consider is the one released last week in the American Journal of Public Health, which linked texting to “an alarming rise in distracted driving fatalities.”

The study estimate that texting caused 16,000 fatalities from 2001 to 2007. Typically the crashes involved male drivers in single-vehicle accidents.

This problem will take the same kind of public health effort that increased the use of seat belts and made drunk driving socially unacceptable.

The front line will be law enforcement, and for police to get involved they need a law to enforce. This problem is not going away on its own, so the Legislature should act.