A study done by a researcher from the University of Colorado Boulder reveals that the California ban on using hand-held cellphones while driving has not decreased the number of traffic accidents.
The ban has been in effect for six months now and the research, which was presented in the journal Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, comes as a surprise given that previous research suggested driving and using a cellphone is risky — almost as risky as driving intoxicated.
The study that was authored by associate professor of economics, Daniel Kaffine, compared accident numbers in the six months before the ban and the six months following the ban. After considering all adjustments such as weather and gas prices, the findings revealed that there is no evidence that accidents have decreased.
The study was not designed to determine why accidents did not decrease, but there could be several potential factors for this. It is possible that people are not complying with the law, that cellphone users are prone to other distractions and are reckless in general or possibly that past studies determining the risk of using cellphone while driving have overestimated the danger.
In Canada, every province and territory, except Nunavut, has created a law to deal with cellphone use by drivers. It has been determined by Ontario Provincial Police that distracted driving is the number one killer on the roads and can be linked to 78 fatalities in 2013 compared to the 57 deaths related to impaired driving and 44 related to speed.
Provinces are increasing fines and drivers in Ontario may see fines up to $1,000 for distracted driving. Also, many provinces are broadening the distracted driving encompassment. For instance, in Alberta distracted driving now includes activities like reading, writing and hygiene as well.
Many manufacturers are building vehicles, like the Ford Focus, that have devices such as a Bluetooth audio connection for cellphones to help North Americans comply with this law.