Evaluating the impact of legislation prohibiting hand-held cell phone use while driving

As of November 2008, the number of cell phone subscribers in the US exceeded 267 million, nearly three times more than the 97 million subscribers in June 2000. This rapid growth in cell phone use has led to concerns regarding their impact on driver performance and road safety. Numerous legislative efforts are under way to restrict hand-held cell phone use while driving. Since 1999, every state has considered such legislation, but few have passed primary enforcement laws. As of 2008, six states, the District of Columbia, and the Virgin Islands have laws banning the use of hand-held cell phones while driving. A review of the literature suggests that in laboratory settings, hand-held cell phone use impairs driver performance by increasing tension, delaying reaction time, and decreasing awareness. However, there exists insufficient evidence to prove that hand-held cell phone use increases automobile-accident-risk. In contrast to other research in this area that uses questionnaires, tests, and simulators, this study analyzes the impact of hand-held cell phone use on driving safety based on historical automobile-accident-risk-related data and statistics, which would be of interest to transportation policy-makers. To this end, a pre-law and post-law comparison of automobile accident rate measures provides one way to assess the effect of hand-held cell phone bans on driving safety; this paper provides such an analysis using public domain data sources. A discussion of what additional data are required to build convincing arguments in support of or against legislation is also provided.


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  • Accession Number: 01154944
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS, ATRI
  • Created Date: Mar 23 2010 12:05PM