State laws that ban cell phone use and texting while driving fail to reduce accidents, according to a new study by the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI).
HLDI researchers calculated monthly collision claims per 100 insured vehicle years for vehicles up to 3 years old during the months immediately before and after hand-held phone use was banned while driving in New York, the District of Columbia, Connecticut and California.
Month-to month changes in rates of collision claims in places with bans did not change from before or after the laws went into effect.
"The laws aren't reducing crashes, even though we know that such laws have reduced hand-held phone use, and several studies have established that phoning while driving increases crash risk," says Adrian Lund, president of both the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and HLDI.
In New York the HLDI researchers did find a decrease in collision claim frequencies, relative to comparison states, but this decreasing trend began well before the state's ban on hand-held phoning while driving and actually paused briefly when the ban took effect. Trends in the District of Columbia, Connecticut, and California didn't change.
"So the new findings don't match what we already know about the risk of phoning and texting while driving," Lund points out.
"If crash risk increases with phone use and fewer drivers use phones where it's illegal to do so, we would expect to see a decrease in crashes. But we aren't seeing it. Nor do we see collision claim increases before the phone bans took effect. This is surprising, too, given what we know about the growing use of cellphones and the risk of phoning while driving. We're currently gathering data to figure out this mismatch."