Sunday, January 31, 2010

Hand-Held Cell Phones Bans Alone Don't Reduce Accidents: Study

A new study notes that hands-free cell phone bans will not significantly reduce auto accidents. Rather, what the study says is that distracted driving is the problem. However, before wireless carriers and cell phone manufacturers start (or continue) lobbying against such bans, they need to remember that cell phones are one of those distractions.

The study was conducted by the Highway Loss Data Institute, an insurance industry group. It examined accident rates before and after hand-held cell phone bans went into effect in New York, the District of Columbia, Connecticut and California.
"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. For example, an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study that relies on driver phone records found a 4-fold increase in the risk of injury crashes. A study in Canada found a 4-fold increase in the risk of crashes involving property damage. Separate surveys of driver behavior before and after hand-held phone use bans show reductions in the use of such phones while driving.
So why aren't the results better? The HLDI is gathering further data to try to make that determination. The answer, however, may be simply common sense: it's not the use of hand-held phones that is the issue; it's the use of cell phones will driving, period. In fact, some studies have already posited that cell phone conversation while driving alone is a distraction that needs banning. This isn't the first such study to note that hands-free setups don't reduce accidents, either.

Let's not forget, also, that even before starting to talk on a cell phone, and even with a Bluetooth headset, a driver must dial a number (unless it's one he can redial from the headset). That's a major distraction, as well.

There's also a conundrum, as well, with car manufacturers beginning to stuff more and more technology into cars, which simply add to the distraction. It was bad enough before the advent of cell phones, with complex stereo systems and eating, but now manufacturers are adding wi-fi hotspots to cars. While common-sense would say that drivers should be smart enough to know better than to turn to the laptop sitting on their passenger seat to Google something, it seems pretty obvious that there will be some who do.

Those who rail against legislation need to recall what good seat-belt laws did. They also need to remember, that we wouldn't need to legislate such matters, if people were smart enough or had enough common sense on their own.
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