More than five years after the District of Columbia banned the use of hand-held cellphones while driving, the first definitive evidence emerged Friday that it hasn’t made the streets much safer.
Ten days after a national study found that cellphones and texting were to blame for 28 per cent of crashes, a report released Friday concludes that hands-free cellphones are no less distracting than those held to the ear.
“Insurance collision loss experience does not indicate a decrease in crash risk when hand-held laws are enacted,” said the study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. “There is no evidence that bans on hand-held use by drivers has affected ... collision claims.”
As the larger issue of distracted driving has gained traction, with US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in the vanguard of an effort to address it, behavioural testing in laboratory settings indicates that hands-free cellphone conversations are just as distracting as the hand-held variety. Using crash statistics, it shows that there was no significant difference in the number of accidents in the District, California or New York in the months before and after hands-free laws went into effect.
“Our concern with hand-held bans has been that these laws are encouraging drivers to go hands-free, which is just as risky,” said Jonathan Adkins of the Governors Highway Safety Association. “We need more research and data to determine whether or not hand-held bans should be implemented across the country.”
Adkins said his group continues to urge states to pass texting bans but to hold off on addressing other cellphone use “until some clarity is achieved.”
The report is the latest in a growing body of evidence cited by those who advocate banning all cellphone use by drivers.
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