Contrary to previous research, a new study says California’s ban on using hand-held cell phones while driving has reduced the number of related traffic fatalities and injuries.
The study, conducted by the University of California, Berkeley’s Safety Transportation Research and Education Center compared the two years before the state enacted the cell phone ban in July 2008 and the two following years. Among the findings:
- Overall traffic deaths fell 22%, and
- Hand-held cell phone driver deaths declined 47%.
Not only that, but results were similar for cases involving hands-free phones, even though California has not banned them. Separate research may explain why. A 2010 survey found that in states with hand-held phone bans, 44% of drivers said they didn’t use a cell phone at all while driving compared to only 30% in states without bans. It’s possible the hand-held ban also discouraged users of hands-free phone devices such as Bluetooth.
Of course, enforcement plays a big part in the decline of any illegal activity. California’s Department of Motor Vehicles says in 2011, there were 460,487 hand-held cell phone convictions, up 22% from 2010 and an increase of 52% from 2009.
The total cost of a ticket for a first offense is $20, but it rises to at least $159 after various state and local fees and taxes are added. Subsequent offenses are at least $279.
Previous research had showed no difference in the number of crashes involving drivers using hand-held versus hands-free phones. Example: A 2010 study by the Highway Loss Data Institute found no reductions in crashes in states that passed similar laws.
Does this study make you more likely to support similar hand-held cell phone bans while driving in more states, or even nationwide? Let us know what you think in the comments below.