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This one doesn't surprise us one bit and we'll explain why in a moment. Until then, clock this: a Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) study determined that laws banning the use of hand-held phones have no effect on the crash rate. None, as in zero effect. Says HLDI and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety president Adrian Lund, "The laws aren't reducing crashes, even though we know that such laws have reduced hand-held phone use." So there you go, drivers get into an equal number of crashes with or without cell phones.

As to why we aren't surprised by the HLDI's findings, two reasons... well, really three. The first being that over the last decade and a half there has been an exponential increase in American cell phone usage. We went from only yuppies walking around with Gordon Gekko sized brick phones to nearly everyone having a mobile phone. If cell phones and driving are as dangerous as certain state lawmakers were led to believe, we would have seen a similar exponential rise in accidents. But, we never saw one. Instead, it was just one big hysterical case of causation without correlation.

The second reason is something Ford showed us while we were checking out their new MyFord Touch technology. Ford engineers were explaining just how crazy dangerous it is to text while driving. According to Ford's data, texting while driving is 23 times their baseline as dangerous as just plain old driving – by far the most dangerous activity you can engage in behind the wheel. Looking at FoMoCo's chart we noticed that hands-free cell phone usage registered a +1 in terms of danger – statistically insignificant. However, talking on a hand-held cell phone recorded -1, less accidents occurred in Ford's study when people were talking on a hand-held phone than when they were just driving. That said, -1 is statistically nothing.

Our third reason is more observational than data of science based, though it does square with the HLDI's findings: people seem to drive just as lousy phone or no phone. Wake up and drive people.

[Source: HLDI News | Photo: Corbis]


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 56 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      disclaimer: I am part of a medical student initiative for cellphone-free driving (Edmonton, Canada).

      I suspect the reason banning hand-held devices made no difference is because hand-held and hands-free devices have the same effect on driving. Your hands aren't the limiting factor; the distraction is.

      Texting is a different matter altogether, as most people can't touch-type with a phone.

      If anecdotal evidence is all you need, then talking to an emergency doc should yield plenty of anecdotes.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Three people just this morning...

      Almost out of control... holding phones to their heads.

      And this is in Iowa, were we have nearly record amounts of snow and ice on the ground, and not all the roads are clear.

      Reckless driving, failure to maintain control, and even willful endangerment (of passengers, pedestrians, or other car occupants) need to be more strictly enforced.

      Specific legal language is just further convoluting the legal code... the law already covers it... if it would just be enforced.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I honestly don't think it's the phone holding itself, but rather the aural/visual disconnect.

        I think any form activity that that requires the driver to process information will probably cause distracted. People get tunnel vision when they do those things.

        It used to be peoples kids distracting you in the car; but now the drivers just ignore their kids and instead yap away. Same type of distraction, just a different source.
        • 5 Years Ago
        A cogent explanation Boxer. We don't need more laws, we need the law to be enforced.

        Here's a scenario; You're a cop and you're patrolling the highway. You see two cars on the road ahead of you. As you pass them (it's a 4 lane road) you see Driver 1 is talking on his cell phone or better yet texting. But he is absolutely driving straight and true. If he does look down, it's only for a second. Other than that he watching the raod. As a matter of fact there is a small object in the road and he very smoothly avoids it with a little steering input (he doesn't have to jerk out of his lane). Driver 2 is eating an egg McMuffin and drinking his morning coffee or fidlling with his stereo triying to find a station or pull a CD out of his CD wallet holder. He is swerving back and forth, over correcting when he looks up from what he his doing. Who is the greater risk? Who is driving distracted? If the state has a "no handeld cell" law what do you do? Pull over the guy who is not making himself a risk or the guy that is a danger to himself and others? You would think that it's obvious, but what if the fine is bigger for the cell phone user (because of the "needle-focused" law) and the captain just told you that the mayor/governor/chief of police wants more citations for this infraction and your review is coming up? It's easy to cop out (pardon the pun). A straight law that says no distracted driving let's the cop go after those who are a danger to others on the road, not those who will cough up the most revenue or gain brownie points for the officer.
        • 5 Years Ago
        That is why the law is already in place.

        It doesn't concentrate on the cause, only the effect/result.

        who cares why you lost control. You lost control.

        who cares why you were reckless driving, you were reckless driving.

        who cares why you didn't think better than to put other people at risk... you did it.

        Whether it was a phone, a kid, a passenger, a stereo, a big mac, a dvd player, bees, or whatever... the effect and outward risk is the same. The law deals with it the same way.

        If anyone can come up with mitigating circumstances for losing control, driving recklessly, or endangering other people... that is the definition of a "case by case basis."

        The law has trouble with intentions. It has no such trouble with demonstrable results.

        And it is also why needle-focused "bans" are nearly useless. People start ignoring such minute micromanagement, if not outright rebelling against it.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Education, common sense and careful use of technology will prevent more accidents than these laws. The results are in. There is no need to ban cell phone usage while driving.

        People should avoid dialing and answering phones while in heavy traffic and poor conditions, especially dialing. I have always believed that this whole "disconnected while talking" thing was speculation. I have little doubt that it happens for some people in some situations, but people can gauge their usage accordingly, it should be safe to talk while driving. Texting is a whole different issue.

        People who crash while talking on the phone are probably easily distracted and not very skilled at driving anyway. What's the difference if it's a phone or something else?
        • 5 Years Ago
        "If cell phones and driving are as dangerous as certain state lawmakers were led to believe, we would have seen a similar exponential rise in accidents. But, we never saw one. Instead, it was just one big hysterical case of causation without correlation."

        I think you're missing the point here, or whoever did this survey. I agree the number of cell phone users has gone up, exponentially, and the number of accidents is steadily increasing, if that.

        However, in a car of 5 people using cell phones, there's only one driver? Kids in middle school/high school have cell phones, but very few of them drive? Cities are the areas where cell phones are most common, but everyone relies on public transportation?

        If you get what I'm saying, cell phones causing accidents primarily applies to the suburbs where there is traffic, and not much public transportation. I agree the correlation is not 1:1, but there definitely is some relation, even if it may be 10-20%.

        ...but not enough to create law and a $100 citation for it.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Well put boxerfanatic. Personally, I'm not surprised accidents aren't directly related to cell phone use. I don't think it's that we're easily distracted as a culture though, I think it's that we just don't give a sh*t. Lots of people won't keep in their own lane but put them in a seat with an first person shooter and they magically seem to have the peripheral vision of a navy seal. Why? Because they always have the capability but they just are too neurotic to apply it when it isn't convenient for them.

        Whether it's driving or even walking, I'm sure I'm not the only one who has noticed that at 1mph or 100, people don't pay attention anymore. I'm only 22 but in the past 5-10 years, everyone has started looking around like they're dazed. They're so in their heads, on their phones and otherwise focused on themselves that they stumble into streets, run into each other and cut each other off with astonishing regularity. Going to the supermarket is even a hassle because god forbid we have to manage to move some wire mesh on wheels. Frankly it's a wonder to me that most people can even manage to get out of their driveways and that's only going to change if they incur a fine for endangering others.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Who cares we all will die anyway
        • 5 Years Ago
        So it's okay if I'm texting and driving and swerve off the road and kill a pedestrian?
        • 5 Years Ago
        #1 DRIVING IS NOT A RIGHT.
        Driving is a PRIVALEGE. Privaleges can be abridged by the government - ESPECIALLY in the name of safety.

        #2 LOOK AT THE PICTURE. Driving while looking down at a phone IS NOT SAFE.

        I myself have tried it. ITS DANGEROUS. It reduces your reaction time by enough to cause fatalities.

        #3 FORD addressed this problem well in SYNC. Sync sends your text messages to the Nav screen and you can answer them in simple button taps using canned messages such as :yes:, :no:, :later:, :im busy: etc.

        • 5 Years Ago
        Just because we will all die sometime doesn't mean you have to be a nihilist or hedonist. Life is still fun, and cutting someone else's life short is all the more tragic.
        • 5 Years Ago
        You first then.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Atlanta based Try Safety First President and entrepreneur John Fischer has developed technology to prevent texting and emailing when behind the wheel. Please open video link. For more information contact John Fischer at 770-652-4517 or john.fischer@trysafetyfirst.com.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q0kdmDXhkC8
      • 5 Years Ago
      The use of hand held phones doesn't just mean talking, it means texting as well. If people know they can't use their phones while driving AT ALL then the more dangerous activity of texting is taken away, regardless of what impact talking on the phone has on a person's driving. Talking on a hand-free is as distracting as talking to a passenger in the car with you, you are still free to look at the road. Looking down at your phone and texting takes your eyes off the road, very different
      • 5 Years Ago
      The laws don't make a difference because people still continue to talk on their cell phones and text while driving. If they do have an accident, they just don't disclose that bit of information anymore. The law hasn't stopped me from using my cell phone while driving. I see it as no different than exceeding the speed limit. I'm going to do it try not to get caught. I see people all day long with their cell phones to their ear while driving. From what I have witnessed, the new law in this state hasn't changed a thing.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Years ago I read that talking to a passenger is less distracting than driving using the phone.

      It appears that when you're on the phone the brain makes an effort to imagine the person you are talking to, so you're less concentrated on the driving.

      If it's true using headsets is as dangerous as using hand-held phones..
      • 5 Years Ago
      Huh? Everybody now uses some kind of hands free technology and still makes calls from their cars. This story makes it clear the study is about banning hand held phones. So I think we still need to hear whether banning phone use altogether would reduce the accident rate before the verdict is in.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Yeah, you're right. The study does address hands free and offers it as a possible explanation for the lack of expected crash reductions:

        "Lund points to factors that might be eroding the effects of hand-held phone bans on crashes. One is that drivers in jurisdictions with such bans may be switching to hands-free phones because no US state currently bans all drivers from using such phones. In this case crashes wouldn't go down because the risk is about the same"

        Regardless, I was trying to say that Mr. Lieberman is jumping the gun by saying this study proves cellphones don't cause accidents. In fact the article itself agrees that cellphones do cause accidents and that moving from handheld to hands free changes nothing.
        • 5 Years Ago
        [re]Read the article, they covered that aspect already in the study.
      • 5 Years Ago
      That's because nobody pays any attention to the law in the first place. I see nearly as many people holding phones to head here in California as they did before the ban. And they drive just as badly as they did before, so they are easy to spot.
      • 5 Years Ago
      My favorite part of this whole issue is the fact that police officers and emergency personnel are exempted (typically) from such laws. You know, because cops, firefighters, and EMTs have some special voodoo mastery of phoning/texting while driving that we mere mortals don't have.

      If my experience is any indicators, cops (for sure) are just as distracted talking on cellphones while driving as any other driver. I've seen it with my own eyes.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The study states that cell phone usage has gone up exponentially but can they prove what the level of cell phone usage while driving is? Laws like this are most useful after an accident happens. If you can prove that someone was doing something like this, they will take more of the blame.

      A guy in an F150 backed into my much smaller truck in a parking lot while he was talking on the phone. In fact, he never got off the phone the entire time we were there exchanging information. My insurance company took that into account when fighting his and I was not blamed.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The truth of the entire matter is that idiot drivers will be distracted by anything. Someone can be just as distracted massing with the radio or talking to a passenger as they can talking on a cell phone. Why don't we ban radios and passengers in cars too? Take hand held cell phones away and they'll be distracted by hands free. Take those away and they'll be distracted by conversations with passengers. Mandate that they drive alone and they'll be distracted by the radio, or their speedometer, or a billboard. Like they said, if cell phone use in cars has been such a huge and singular cause of accidents then accidents should have increased massively in proportion to the massive increase in cell phone use over the past 10 years. They haven't. Horrible drivers are, and always will be, horrible and cell phones just happen to be their drug of choice currently. Ban their use and the addicts will just switch to a different drug.
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