New Study an About-Face on the Efficacy of Banning Use of Phones While Driving

By January 29, 2010

As we’ve written before, using a phone while driving has been deemed to be as dangerous – if not more – than driving drunk. (We’ve also recently learned that things are doubly bad, as a new study claims that driving reduces your ability to talk on the phone, too, but that’s outside the scope of this article.) That idea that using a phone while driving is incredibly dangerous has become accepted as true and is the force behind states' efforts to ban the practice. But those bans might not be effective in reducing traffic accidents at all. A new study by the National Institute for Highway Safety claims that banning the use of phones while driving actually has no effect on accident rates. "The laws aren't reducing crashes, even though we know that such laws have reduced hand-held phone use, and several studies have established that phoning while driving increases crash risk," said Adrian Lund, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the Highway Loss Data Institute, which undertook the study.

The study looked at monthly collision rates for insured vehicles three three-years-old and younger in areas where the use of cell phones had been banned (New York, the District of Columbia, Connecticut and California) and compared the data with areas that had not enacted such a ban.

The amount of collisions due to cell phone use where phones were prohibited did not change at all, neither in comparison to pre-ban regions nor in regions where no bans were in effect.

"Whatever the reason, the key finding is that crashes aren't going down where hand-held phone use has been banned," Lund said. "This finding doesn't auger well for any safety payoff from all the new laws that ban phone use and texting while driving."

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