Cell Phone Bans Failing To Curb Accident Rates

Cameron Aubernon
by Cameron Aubernon

If any legislators were hoping banning cell phone use behind the wheel would cut down on accidents and fatalities linked to distracted driving, it may have been all for naught according to a handful of studies on the matter.

Autoblog reports the most recent study, published in Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, looked over the before and after regarding California’s 2008 ban in the year it went into effect. The findings? After six months, cell phone-linked accidents fell from 66.7 per day to 65.2. Another study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Highway Loss Data Institute looked over claim rates in 2009 and 2010, finding that ban or no ban, the song remained the same.

As for why this is so, associate professor of economics Daniel Kaffine of the University of Colorado posits drivers are either ignoring the bans outright, using hands-free technology that still distracts drivers, drivers are distracted by other things — ranging from the radio to the kids fighting in the back — and/or cell phone use isn’t as bad as once perceived.

Cameron Aubernon
Cameron Aubernon

Seattle-based writer, blogger, and photographer for many a publication. Born in Louisville. Raised in Kansas. Where I lay my head is home.

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  • Pch101 Pch101 on Jul 24, 2014

    I pointed out some years ago that the real-world fatality rates for those who were on the phone were below those of those who weren't. Those on the phone are driving more slowly and making fewer lane changes than those who aren't. When they hang up, they speed up and make more lane changes. Guess which combination of those behaviors is most closely correlated with higher crash rates. If drivers who were less distracted put their attentiveness to good use, then that would help. As it turns out, they do the opposite. Driverless cars are the hope of the future because they don't require humans to become better people in order to work effectively.

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    • S2k Chris S2k Chris on Jul 24, 2014

      @Pch101 ALl you have to do is look around the average corporate meeting to see how many people grab their cell phones and start texting/surfing/fbing/gaming as soon as they get bored, and I'm bored as fck driving along the highway at anything under 80. It's actually uncomfortable.

  • Don1967 Don1967 on Jul 24, 2014

    The safety nannies' biggest PR mistake was probably its zero-tolerance attitude towards cell phone usage. Making it an offence to touch your Samsung while driving is like making it an offence to have a sip of beer before driving. This sort of thing just doesn't fly with thinking people.

  • Chris8017 Chris8017 on Jul 24, 2014

    This is somewhat off topic but I wonder if anyone has filed a lawsuit against a cell-phone carrier or manufacturer claiming there device maimed or killed themselves or others due to use while driving. I mean if people do it to cigarette companies why not cell phone companies? Pretty soon there will be a new law that every time you power on or wake-up your cellphone it must display a NHTSA message saying "Warning: This device should not be used while operating a motor vehicle as it could lead to injury or death." Below would also be a picture of a maimed person from a car wreck...just like the cancerous lung photo you have to see on a pack of Marlboro smokes or the surgeon general warning (which version depends on which state you purchase your cigs). Nothing takes away the joy of an after work smoke like a government mandated picture of a cancerous lung...or the NHTSA message warning you of impending death while you rapidly click 'accept' to see the sext message you've been waiting for all day while doing 90mph down the freeway.

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    • Don1967 Don1967 on Jul 24, 2014

      @S2k Chris If "those days are over" then why are we having this conversation? And which dictionary are you using to look up words? The fact is that cell phones remain widely accepted and widely used as in-car devices, despite the increasingly-known dangers and the growing PR campaign against them. In this regard they are exactly like cigarettes.

  • DrGastro997 DrGastro997 on Jul 24, 2014

    This law isn't going to do much. State police can jack up their SUVs to look into cars but it's doing nothing here in Chicago. Seems to me more people are using mobiles during commutes, especially in Chicago's crawling traffic. There has to be a better way...