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Are bans on cellphones while driving proving effective?

The legal landscape concerning distracted driving here in the U.S. has undergone some significant changes over the course of the last decade. Indeed, 44 states currently prohibit all drivers from texting while driving, while 13 have also enacted bans on the use of hand-held cellphones behind the wheel.

Things are actually a bit different here in Missouri, as state lawmakers have not taken such a hard line stance against distracted driving. In fact, state law currently has no prohibitions against use of a cellphone while driving and only prohibits texting while driving by novice drivers (i.e., those 21 and under).

While the state's stance on distracted driving has been on the receiving end of some criticism from vehicle safety advocates, recently released studies on the efficacy of cellphone bans in other states may cause them to change their position.

  • A recently published study in Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice examined the six-month periods preceding and following California's enactment of its all cellphone ban back in July 2008. Researchers determined that the drop in accidents was statistically insignificant, declining from 66.7 accidents per day to only 65.2 accidents per day.
  • Previous studies by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's investigative branch, the Highway Loss Data Institute, were unable to uncover any evidence that cellphone bans reduced the incidence of car accidents after examining insurance claims in both 2009 and 2010.

"Unfortunately, there is no evidence that various kinds of cellphone restrictions states have enacted have reduced crashes," said the IIHS' senior vice president of communications.

These types of studies have understandably caused consternation among many safety advocates and state lawmakers, both of whom want to know why these cellphone bans aren't preventing motor vehicle accidents.

Interestingly, some of the theories advanced by experts for this phenomenon include the following: people are consciously ignoring cellphone bans, legally permissible hands-free devices are more distracting than originally thought, people are lying to police after accidents in order to avoid steep fines, or people are simply continuing to be distracted by other items (GPS, navigation screens, passengers, etc.).

What are your thoughts on these studies? Do they change your mind concerning the current state of the law here in Missouri? How should legislators tackle the problem of distracted driving?

Source: AutoBlog.com, "Cellphone bans don't reduce accidents, research finds," Greg Migliore, July 23, 2014

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