Cellphone Use Does Not Cause More Car Crashes

More research has come out against the common belief that being on your phone while driving will make you more likely to crash a car. This time, they took advantage of the cellphone call spike that happens at 9pm on weekdays, which is when it generally becomes free to place calls: if talking on the phone led to more crashes, then there would also be a spike in car accidents just after 9pm. There was no such thing.

Crash Rate for California from 8pm to 10pm in Preperiods (1995 to 1998) and Postperiods (2005) (Monday to Thursday)

In lab simulations, it’s been shown that any kind of cellphone use (talking hands-free or not, texting, etc) is always more impairing than driving while drunk or high on marijuana. Real-life data does not seem to support the lab results, though. In their paper (PDF), the researchers also brought up two important points that we’ve seen before:

  1. Despite the exponential increase in cellphones over the past two decades, car crashes haven continued to decrease
  2. Laws banning cell phone use have no effect on accidents

Cellular Ownership and Crashes Per Vehicle Mile Traveled in the United States for 1988 to 2005

It’s also worth mentioning another study from 2012 showing that bad drivers will always drive badly: if they can’t be distracted by cell phones, they will find or make another distraction to keep them from being bored. Thankfully, self-driving cars are just years away at this point.

See also:

From Carnegie Mellon University (PDF), via Slashdot

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