A new study out today irresponsibly suggests that laws banning cell phone use while driving have zero effect on the number of crashes on our nation’s roadways.
At this early stage in our work against distracted driving, no one should be discouraging strong nationwide efforts to make our roadways safer. When it comes to distracted driving, we are only at the starting gate.
Unfortunately, a study released by the Highway Loss Data Institute casts doubt on the reality of this epidemic. Not explaining likely reasons for the surprising data encourages people to wrongly conclude that talking on cell phones while driving is not dangerous!
Nothing could be further from the truth. Just ask Jennifer Smith and the founding board members of FocusDriven, who all lost loved ones in crashes caused by cell phone drivers. Ask Shelli Ralls, who lost her son Chance Wayne Wilcox on March 22, 2008. Ask any one of the hundreds of people who have poured out their stories of loss on Oprah, on websites, in blogs and newspapers around the country.
As Larry Copeland reports in USA Today:
"The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) and auto club AAA said the study's implications were unclear. Both also said the findings should not be interpreted to suggest that banning texting while driving would be ineffective."
And if you need to see the evidence, please visit www.distraction.gov our one-stop resource for information about this deadly epidemic. Once you’re convinced, I hope you’ll join our effort and find ways to get involved.
Look, a University of Utah study shows that using a cell phone while driving can be just as dangerous and deadly as driving drunk.
And we know that by enacting and enforcing tough laws, states have reduced the number of crashes leading to injuries and fatalities. We know that high visibility campaigns and enforcement, like Click It or Ticket and Drunk Driving: Over The Limit--Under Arrest have had a positive influence on driver behavior.
That’s why seat belt use is at an all time high of 84 percent and drunk driving is declining. These improvements didn’t happen overnight. It took strong laws, enforcement, education and personal responsibility to bring us where we are today, and still there is more work to do.
If anything, the study suggests we need even tougher protections. Adrian Lund, president of both the HLDI and IIHS, said, "Drivers in jurisdictions with such bans may be switching to hands-free phones because no U.S. state currently bans all drivers from using such phones." But, he wisely cautions, "We know that people talking hands-free are really not much safer than people talking on handhelds."
And, as National Safety Council President Janet Froetscher said:
"HLDI findings support the need for a total ban on cell phone use while driving. There is a common misconception that hands-free is safer when the research tells us hands-free is just as dangerous as handheld. To accurately measure the reduction of crashes, it’s going to take states or municipalities passing legislation banning handheld and hands-free devices. And it's going to take effective law enforcement."
She's exactly right. Studies of cognitive distraction tell us that it's not about where your hands are, but where your head is.
And it's about where the enforcement is.
And it's also about where the public education is. The HLDI media release accompanying their study notes that, in North Carolina, teen hand-held phone use didn't decline in response to a ban because teens didn't think the law was being enforced.
Now, if we can get the drivers who may not be worried about the law to see the safety consequences of their behavior--as we have been able to do with decades of drunk driving and seat belt education--we can indeed make our roadways safer.