Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, researchers at the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) have determined that laws banning the use of handheld cell phones while driving do not reduce crash rates (press release here). Rather than utilizing real world accident data, the HLDI researchers studied “reductions in observed phone use following bans” to determine what the anticipated reduction in accidents should be. Presumably, by their math, observing 30% fewer drivers on handheld cell phones should produce 30% fewer accidents.
What-the-everloving-f*ck? By this logic, if I look out my window and don’t see a serial killer, I can presume that serial killers don’t exist. Likewise, if I see 30% fewer cars on Sunday, I can state that the number of cars in my city has decreased by 30%.
Let’s examine the facts. Handheld cell phone bans are as widely ignored as the old 55 mile per hour speed limit was. I’ve lived in states that have enacted bans, and have never seen a reduction in the number of drivers on cell phones, regardless of the law. In terms of enforcement, unless there’s a local campaign to target cell phone driving, you’re about as likely to get a ticket for cell phone use as you are for jaywalking.
Studies from as far back as 2005 and 2006 have documented that use of cell phones is as dangerous as driving drunk. Other studies seem to indicate that even “hands free” devices don’t solve the problem; the human brain is simply not wired to multitask this way.
A 2009 test by Car and Driver (admittedly less than 100% scientific) showed even more dramatic results from texting and driving; one test subject had double the reaction time while texting than he did while driving under the influence.
I don’t know about you, but I get all the proof I need every time I get behind the wheel.