Advertisement
Find a Car
Go!

Cellphone Laws Aren't Reducing Crashes, Finds Safety Group

Follow Bengt

Speeding up, slowing down and weaving back and forth are all caused by texting

Speeding up, slowing down and weaving back and forth are all caused by texting

Enlarge Photo

Here's a surprising result: Looking purely at the frequency of crashes before and after enactment, new laws that restrict the use of handheld cellphone use (calling and/or texting) while driving produce no recognizable reduction in crashes.

So find researchers from the Highway Loss Data Institute, an organization that is funded by the insurance industry. They looked at the rates of monthly collision claims per 100 insured vehicle years—one car insured for one year—for vehicles up to three years old in the months right before and after hand-held bans went into effect in New York (November 2001), D.C. (July 2004), Connecticut (October 2005), and California (July 2008). This data set was then compared with nearby areas without a ban—for instance, D.C. was compared both with statewide trends in Virginia and Maryland, and with the city of Baltimore.

The methodology effectively corrected for economic swings, seasonal changes in driving changes, and other variables, the researchers say.

The HLDI observed drivers in the affected areas and found that handheld use was down significantly after the ban—but that somehow didn't lead to a lower accident rate.

"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," summed Adrian Lund, the president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the HLDI, in a release.

A large-scale Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study released last summer, with data gathered via cameras, of real-world drivers, found that drivers using handsets were at several times the risk of a crash or near-crash when dialing and up to 23.2 times the risk when texting (for truck drivers).  U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is taking these results, along with others suggesting various levels of distraction, very seriously and earlier this week announced a nationwide texting ban for commercial truck drivers.

The results of the HLDI research are to be presented to the SAE Government/Industry Meeting in Washington, D.C. today.

Eating or drinking while driving is as dangerous as using a cellphone

Eating or drinking while driving is as dangerous as using a cellphone

Enlarge Photo

One possibility is that hands-free phones might be placing users at virtually the same overall risk as hand-held devices, despite recent results linking higher rates of distraction with the physical act of pushing buttons and holding the phone. Another possibility yet is that with a migration to "safer" hands-free options, people are communicating more while driving—or that for some drivers, having their hands free frees them up for other types of distractions, like eating or drinking.

"So the new findings don't match what we already know about the risk of phoning and texting while driving," Lund points out. "If crash risk increases with phone use and fewer drivers use phones where it's illegal to do so, we would expect to see a decrease in crashes. But we aren't seeing it."

There's surely more to this story, and the HLDI is now gathering data to try to understand the other factors involved and why the perceived lowering of risk didn't result in a reduced crash rate. Stay tuned.

Currently just seven states—California, Oregon, Washington, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut—have full hand-held bans in effect for all drivers; four others—Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Illinois—have partial bans. Hand-held cellphone bans affecting only young drivers are now enforced in 21 states plus the District of Columbia.

[IIHS]

Advertisement
 
Follow Us

 

Have an opinion?

  • Posting indicates you have read this site's Privacy Policy and Terms of Use
  • Notify me when there are more comments
Comments (4)
  1. There is, in fact, considerable support for the argument that talking on the phone is the real distraction, whether drivers use a handset or not: http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-9892735-1.html
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  2. There is a difference between passing a law and enforcing it. As a NY driver, I can tell you that cell phone use while driving is very common, and very rarely ticketed.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  3. Research has found that by the third sentence of a conversation on a cell phone, hand held or not, your mind forms a picture of the person spoken with or the subject matter, and 38% of your controlable intelligence is occupied. You are then worse off than if you were legally drunk with reguard to attention to driving. Texting raises the risk because your eyes leave the road environment about 4.6 seconds of each 6 second period, making you essentially blind, in addition to to the mental distraction ! The laws and penalties are way behind this situation and seem to be making no headway in catching up with the problem. "Heads UP when driving!"
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  4. Although no significant changes were seen in the number of accidents after the texting ban was implemented, I still believe that cell phone use while driving is one of the primary reasons behind road accidents. I agree with Stan because a big difference lies between creating a good law and enforcing it. Many drivers who use their cell phones while driving may be undetected or unnoticed by authorities.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

 

Have an opinion? Join the conversation!

Advertisement
Try My Showroom
Save cars, write notes, and comparison shop with hi-res photos.
Add your first car
Advertisement
Take Us With You!
   
Advertisement

 
© 2014 The Car Connection. All Rights Reserved. The Car Connection is published by High Gear Media. Stock photography by izmo, Inc. Send us feedback.