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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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Don't Ban Hands-Free Cell Phone Usage
By ipay on 1/29/2010 7:36:56 PM , Rating: 2
It's too easy to get a license renewal. No knowledge tests, no safety testing etc. I agree that "texting" is a safety risk and distraction just like fiddling with radio knobs or paper maps while driving. The safety level, if we want to call it that, is more related to an individual's training and personal safety awareness than whether they are talking or not because a safety-educated person will refrain from talking and/or distractions and keep it to a minimum. Personally, if I answer a call while driving the first thing I say, by policy, is "I'm driving, if this is a routine issue I'll have to call you back later."

Hands-free cellphone usage should not be banned. It's not the same as looking down and "texting." The minute it's against the law to have your cell phone on while driving *creates* a safety hazard because my kids then cannot contact me if they have a problem while I'm away driving either short trip or long.

The "security theater" then is politicians throwing wild band-aids on the situation. What are they going to do next? Ban *all* talking in a car? Ban kids shouting and crying? Ban reflections and sun-glare? It's a bottom-up fix approach and instead it should be top-down with more stringent requirements up-front and for license renewal. Analogy: According to a politician's logic there was unfortunately a person killed on-foot while trying to cross a highway a long time ago somewhere so we must BAN ALL crossing of all streets everywhere. Must ban. Must ban. MUST BAN.

Drive slower. Drive carefully, check all directions three times. Just a friendly reminder for everyone, 8-).




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