Do phone bans really reduce road traffic accidents?

Do phone bans really reduce road traffic accidents?

Banning drivers from using mobile/cell phones while behind the wheel does little to reduce the number of reported car accidents, according to a study by MIT.

The reason why, they say, is because people who use their phone while driving are more likely to take risks than those that don’t use their phones.

The results from the study report that while using a phone when driving is dangerous it is the typical behaviour of the driver that leads the accidents. In short, frequently using a phone while driving is more a sign of a dangerous driver than the cause of dangerous driving.

The study examined the driving habits of 108 US drivers. These were evenly split into three age ranges – 20s, 40s, and 60s, and given two tests. The first was a questionnaire which asked the drivers about their driving habits, such as how they felt about speeding and overtaking, as well as how often they had been pulled over for traffic violations.

The participants were then asked to drive for 40 minutes on Boston’s Interstate 93 in a car with a multitude of sensors. The car monitored the drivers’ pulse, eye movement, and other factors. Front and rear cameras on the car recorded their journeys. While this test was going on the drivers weren’t allowed to use their phones.

Frequent users

Using the data from the questionnaire the researchers found that people who had more positive attitudes towards driving at speed and overtaking were more likely to use their phones while driving, drove at greater speeds, and overtook other drivers more often. They also had to break suddenly more frequently, and accelerated faster than others.
According to the researchers;

“[The] results indicate that a greater reported frequency of cell phone use while driving is associated with a broader pattern of behaviors that are likely to increase the overall risk of crash involvement.”

The results are likely to be controversial as the debate over the increasing number of in-car distractions continues. In the US alone, last year 3,000 fatal traffic accidents were blamed on driver distractions. Such distractions included texting, talking to passengers in the car or on the phone, changing radio stations, and eating.

Some data reports that using a phone while driving is the equivalent to have .08 of the legal alcohol limit.

So while it is not recommended to use a phone while driving is this a case of correlation not equating to causation or are phones a significant enough distraction that they should be banned outright when driving?

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1 Comment

  1. Neildmu0hjwh

    August 23, 2012 at 1:18 PM


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Piers Dillon-Scott is co-editor of The Sociable and writes about stuff he finds. He likes technology, media, and using the Oxford comma (because it just makes sense).

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