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Claim Frequency in New York  (Source: HLDI Study)

Claim Frequency in DC  (Source: HLDI Study)
Study shows accident rates are the same in most areas before and after cell phone bans

All around the country there have been bans going into effect to make driving while talking on a handheld phone illegal. Many states and cities have also made it illegal to text and drive. The reason for the bans were that studies found driving while talking on the phone or texting made drivers much more likely to be in an accident.

Many wondered about how effective the bans would be, particularly among some of the more at risk groups like teen drivers. In December 2009, a teen interviewed by Reuters said that most drivers, especially teen drivers, would simply ignore the bans and continue to text and drive and talk and drive. In states where the bans are in effect police are ticketing people for talking on hand held phones while driving. However, law enforcement officers note that catching a driver texting is very difficult.

Some lawmakers are calling for nationwide bans on texting while driving. There are already national laws against texting and driving for federal employees and this week a new ban was announced that would prohibit bus and big rig drivers from texting while driving. The ban would impose a hefty $2,750 fine on drivers caught violating the ban.

The real question in many minds is, are the bans effective? According to a new study released by the Highway Loss Data Institute laws banning the use of cell phones while driving in the majority of areas where they are enacted have failed to reduce crashes.

"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," says Adrian Lund, president of both the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and HLDI.

Researchers at the HLDI calculated the monthly insurance claims per 100 insured vehicle years. A vehicle year is one car insured for one year, two cars insured for six months, and so on. The study looked at cars up to three years old over the months right before and after the cell phone bans were enacted. The study specifically looked at New York, DC, Connecticut, and California. Areas near those with bans in effect, but having no talking and driving bans in place were used for comparison.

The study points out that the reduction in the number of drivers that talk on a handheld phone after the bans is very significant, yet a reduction in accidents is not being seen with the exception of New York where a reduction in accidents was noted. However, the reductions in New York began before the bans were enacted.

"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. Nor do we see collision claim increases before the phone bans took effect. This is surprising, too, given what we know about the growing use of cell phones and the risk of phoning while driving. We're currently gathering data to figure out this mismatch."

The exact reason why the reduction in drivers using hand held phone and driving hasn't resulted in a reduced number of accidents is being studied. HLDI researchers suggest that it may be because the drivers switched to hands free phones and that talking on a hands free device is just as distracting as talking on a hand held device. In short, the bans on talking on hand held phones and driving are not making the roads any safer.

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RE: Because....
By tayb on 1/29/2010 11:01:56 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah... I've participated in one of those "studies" that supposedly proves talking while driving significantly increases your chance of getting in a wreck. They put you behind a wheel of a difficult course, make you hold the phone in your hand next to your ear, and then proceed to ask you difficult questions that make you think. Very unrealistic. Didn't simulate actual driving conditions in the slightest, failed to even remotely simulate an actual conversation, and having to hold your phone to your ear to the entire time is just ridiculous. You can drop your phone and put two hands on the wheel at any time in real life.

Banning talking while driving is stupid and although I agree in principle with banning texting while driving it's a law that is impossible to enforce and will never be enforced.

RE: Because....
By Aloonatic on 1/29/2010 11:43:22 AM , Rating: 3
impossible to enforce
I guess that is probably true in the country that you live in, assuming that's not the UK. In the UK however, a police officer can just give you a ticket regardless. General conversation being:

"Here's your ticket for driving whilst using your phone Sir"

"But I wasn't??"

"My word against yours Sir. I saw you holding it in your hand, and that legally constitutes using it Sir"

"But I didn't even touch it?!"

"My word against yours Sir, didn't you hear me the first time?"

Sadly, that really is how it works in the UK. I have a friend who is a police officer and I was in a bar with him and some of his plod friends one night, soon after the law came into effect over hear, and over heard one of his friends saying to him how great it is that they can give a ticket for this and don't have to have any proof, and that no one can argue with him.

Hopefully, the next law to go onto the statute books, is something to combat the evil that is blowing your nose whilst stationary in your car. The current laws are not strong enough.

Only took 4 officers to bring this menace to society to justice. Something needs to be done soon.

Gotta love what Britain's legal system has turned into.

RE: Because....
By ET on 1/31/2010 3:36:30 AM , Rating: 2
Agreed about the research. I haven't participated in one, but I remember reading one described and commenting then that it didn't reflect normal driving at all.

I think that holding a phone in your hand does affect driving (based on how I see such people drive and my own experience with not driving with both hands). However, I can imagine that under most circumstances the effect is a lot smaller than research would indicate.

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