Cell Phone Bans More Effective in Dense Urban Areas

Jan 5 08:17 2011 The McClellan Law Firm Print This Article

Distracted driving, such as cell phone use, accounts for 2,600 deaths, 333,000 injuries, and 1.5 million property damage claims each year. Many legislatures have chosen middle-of the road approaches to controlling cell phone use while driving, such as banning texting only or banning cell phone use only by specific driver classes. If you or a loved one has been in a car accident, contact a car accident attorney at 619.677.1641.

Late last year,Guest Posting the Department of Transportation hosted a two-day Distracted Driving Summit, calling national attention to a message safety advocates have been promulgating for years: distracted driving is dangerous. And now we know just how dangerous: according to a study released by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, statistics indicate that 80 percent of all auto accidents involve distracted driving, and 65 percent of near-crashes involve distracted drivers. Distracted driving accounts for 2,600 deaths, 333,000 injuries, and 1.5 million property damage claims each year.

Distracted driving can encompass a wide range of habits; fiddling with the radio, negotiating an argument between young passengers, and attempting to read a map are all activities that can prevent a driver from devoting full attention to the road. However, most attention recently has focused on the use of cell phones while driving.

Few dispute that distracted driving is a menace, but opinions quickly diverge when the discussion turns to the prevention of distracted driving. On one end of the continuum are the proponents of outright bans on cell phone use while driving; on the other end are laissez-faire objectors to bans on specific behaviors that fall under the rubric of distracted driving.

Many legislatures have chosen middle-of the road approaches, banning texting only, banning cell phone use only by specific driver classes such as novice or school bus drivers, or banning hand-held but not hands-free cell phone use. For example, in California, drivers age 18 and over may use hands-free devices while driving, but drivers under the age of 18 are completely banned from using cell phones while driving.

With more jurisdictions turning their attention to distracted driving, one question drawing particular interest is whether cell phone bans work. The answer, according to a study conducted by Sheldon H. Jacobson, Alexander G. Nikolaev, and Matthew J. Robbins, is probably yes, and they are probably most effective in urban areas.

Jacobson and his associates, researchers at the University of Illinois, studied public data from 62 New York counties that banned hand-held cell phones. They observed lower personal injury rates in all 62 counties after the ban. More tellingly, the University of Illinois researchers found that 46 of the counties showed a reduction in fatal car accidents, 10 of them sufficient to be considered statistically significant.

The more densely populated an area, the greater the reduction in personal injuries by banning cell phones, Jacobson told Science Daily. The reason is simple probability; the more there is to hit when distracted, the more likely it is a car accident will occur.

Jacobson's report contradicts the findings of an earlier report funded by the insurance industry. The Highway Loss Data Institute concluded in December that hand-held cell phone bans had no appreciable effect on insurance claims. The HLDI study compared insurance claims for drivers with 2001-2009 model cars in three jurisdictions with new hand-held cell phone bans in effect.

The University of Illinois study used the number of licensed drivers to establish approximate claims data and analyzed the effect of bans over a five-year span post enactment. Jacobson said his study results are not definitive but rather provide some strong evidence that legislatures are moving in the right direction by pursuing hand-held cell phone bans.

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The McClellan Law Firm
The McClellan Law Firm

At The McClellan Law Firm in San Diego, we are trial lawyers first and foremost. Although complex personal injury litigation continues to form the foundation for our firm's success, we also represent businesses in corporate and commercial disputes, homeowners in real estate and construction defects litigation, and employees in cases of discrimination, sexual harassment, and employer retaliation. Contact us for a free consultation about your civil litigation claim at 619.677.1641

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