Many drivers are now stowing their phones since police officers began cracking down on texters and handheld cell phone users. However, a new study suggests that it will take more than talking and texting bans to reduce the number of distracted-driving crashes.

A report by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety examined insurance claims after two cell phone-targeted enforcement periods by New England police in 2011. Data showed that while the number of drivers observed using cell phones dropped significantly, there was little change in the number of crashes.

Why a Cell Phone Ban Is Not Enough to Save Lives

Officials at the IIHS say that while bans are effective at reducing the risk of distraction, there are many other factors putting drivers at risk of a crash, including:

  • Hands-free phones. Many drivers who are reluctant to give up their cell phones for the duration of their drive have made the switch to “hands free” phone calls, either by using headsets or car-integrated systems to make and take calls. However, these calls still require a portion of the driver’s attention, even if his eyes remain on the road.
  • Focus on texting. Focused campaigns such as the “It Can Wait” program may keep drivers mindful of the dangers of texting and driving, but they may also delude drivers into thinking that texting is the only potential danger of cell phone use. Some drivers may use their smartphones to access Facebook or read emails, convinced that they are not at risk because they are not texting.
  • Other distractions. Distractions go far beyond a single device, but all drivers cope with interruptions differently depending on age and experience. In many cases, drivers are more concerned with whether their actions behind the wheel are legal or not, rather than how much focus is diverted from the road.

Should we be doing more to reduce the number of driving distractions in New Jersey? Share this article with your friends and family on Facebook who have trouble looking away from their phone screens in the car.


Manfred Ricciardelli
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