Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Study Finds Differing Long-term Effects of Hand-held Cellphone Bans on Driver Hand-held Cellphone Use

Study finds differing long-term effects of hand-held cellphone bans on hand-held cellphone use

Phoning while driving and texting behind the wheel are in the news. This is the highway safety issue of the moment, the subject of cartoons and, on a more serious side, the focus of legislation. A key question is whether such laws succeed in changing patterns of driver cellphone use.

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety researchers recently conducted a new round of observations of driver use of hand-held phones in 3 jurisdictions where the practice is banned. The findings, along with results of previous studies, reveal differing effects. In the District of Columbia, the proportion of drivers using hand-held phones dropped by about half immediately after a ban took effect in 2004. Nearly 5 years later use has edged up a little, but the decline is largely holding relative to nearby Virginia and Maryland.

The story is different in New York, the first US state to prohibit drivers from using hand-held phones in 2001. Connecticut enacted a ban in 2005. Comparing trends in these states over time, researchers found immediate effects of both laws. Cellphone use declined an estimated 76 percent in Connecticut and 47 percent in New York. But then use began going back up.

Effects of the laws over time: To quantify the long-term effects, researchers observed phone use multiple times during 2001-09 in both the study states and nearby communities without phone bans. The purpose was to estimate the proportion of drivers expected to be using hand-held phones if the laws hadn’t been enacted. By this measure, hand-held phone use was an estimated 65 percent lower in Connecticut, 24 percent lower in New York, and 43 lower in the District of Columbia than would have been expected without the laws.

In Connecticut and New York, phone use was higher in spring 2009 among women of all ages compared with men and higher among drivers younger than 25 versus 25-59 year-olds. Only 1 percent of drivers 60 and older were observed using phones.

“What’s clear from the surveys, despite some variability in their findings, is that bans on hand-held phoning while driving can have big and long-term effects, but the safety implications still aren’t clear,” says Institute president Adrian Lund. “Many drivers still use their hand-held phones, even where it’s banned, and other drivers simply switch to hands-free phones, which doesn’t help because crash risk is about the same, regardless of phone type.”

Phone use, texting, and crash risk: The question of the risk associated with using various electronic devices while driving was the focus of debate at a recent summit convened by Ray LaHood, US Secretary of Transportation. Participants cited a number of studies.

For example, 2006 research from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute involved instrumenting cars with video and sensors to estimate the risk associated with phoning. The main finding is an almost 3-fold increase in the odds of crashing or nearly crashing when dialing a hand-held phone. The increase is 1.3 for talking. However, this study included only 100 cars and not many crashes occurred during the study period, so the results are inconclusive.

Researchers at the same organization say the risk associated with text messaging may be much higher, based on a new study of truck drivers. The main finding is a 23-fold increase in the odds of crashing, nearly crashing, or drifting from a travel lane among truckers who texted while they drove. A limitation is that most of the incidents involved lane drift or other driver error, not crashes, and it’s unknown how such incidents relate to actual crashes.

Two studies that rely on the cellphone records of crash-involved drivers show big increases in crash risk when drivers talk on phones, whether hands-free or hand-held. The risk of a crash involving injury or property damage is 4 times as high.

Other studies have been conducted on simulators. Virtually all of these confirm that phoning impairs driving performance, and the impairment is similar for hand-held and hands-free phones.

“Whether the risk associated with phoning or texting while driving is 4-fold or 23-fold or somewhere in between, the fact of the risk is clear,” Lund points out. “Manual dialing and texting seem especially risky, but talking also involves crash risk, and drivers spend more time talking on phones than dialing.”

Besides the precise risk associated with hand-held phone use, there’s more researchers don’t know. Banning hand-held phones does reduce their use while driving, for example, but it isn’t known whether such bans also reduce crashes. Nor is it known how drivers respond when hand-held phones are banned. This has important implications concerning the laws state legislators are considering.

Laws may be difficult to enforce: The crash risk is about the same, whether drivers use hand-held or hands-free phones, so if motorists respond to hand-held bans by switching the type of phone they use, they may not be reducing crash risk. What they’re doing, though, is engaging in a practice that’s harder to curb because laws against it are harder to enforce.

“Police officers can see whether a driver is holding a phone to the ear, but it’s going to be much harder to determine if a driver is sending a text message or talking on a hands-free phone,” Lund points out.

No US state currently bans all drivers from using hands-free phones. Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia prohibit beginning drivers from using any type of phone, including hands-free, but these laws are hard to enforce. This was the finding in North Carolina, where teenage drivers didn’t curtail phone use in response to such a ban, in part because they didn’t think the law was being enforced.

Technology could make a difference: The best approach would be to use technology to control how and when motorists use their cellphones. Devices are in the works that would block phone use in moving vehicles, but a problem is that such devices would block phoning by passengers as well as drivers. To get around this, some systems include a passenger mode, but it’s unclear whether drivers can be prevented from activating it to circumvent the whole purpose of the devices.

The main use of such technology may be among fleet managers to control phone use by employees or among parents who want to monitor their teenage drivers. However, phone blockers of any sort aren’t yet in widespread use, and their effects aren’t known.

For a copy of “Long-term effects of hand-held cell-phone laws on driver hand-held cellphone use” by A.T. McCartt et al., write: Publications, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 1005 North Glebe Road, Arlington, VA 22201, or email publications

Contact: Russ Rader
(703) 247-1530

Russ Rader | Newswise Science News
Further information:

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Diagnoses: When Are Several Opinions Better Than One?
19.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>