January 29, 2010 by Canadian Underwriter
Bans on hand-held devices while driving fail to reduce crashes, a new Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) study found.
The HLDI is an affiliate of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). It calculated monthly collision claims per 100 insured vehicle years — one car insured for one year, two insured for six months, etc. — for vehicles up to three years old during the months immediately before and after hand-held phone use was banned while driving in four U.S. jurisdictions.
Comparable data was collected from nearby jurisdictions without such bans.
Month-to-month fluctuations in rates of collision claims in jurisdictions with bans didn’t change from before to after the laws were enacted. Nor did the patterns change in comparison with trends in jurisdictions that didn’t have such laws, the HLDI reports.
“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,” said Adrian Lund, president of both IIHS and HLDI.
“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.”
Lund notes that the risk of crashing is the same regardless of whether or not the driver is using a hand-held or hands-free device, the latter of which is not banned.
“Whatever the reason, the key finding is that crashes aren’t going down where hand-held phone use has been banned,” Lund said. “This finding doesn’t auger well for any safety payoff from all the new laws that ban phone use and texting while driving.”