Do cell phone bans prevent car crashes?

Even as a libertarian it’s hard to defend using a cell phone while driving. Nonetheless one can question whether selective bans on using cell phones are effective. A new study suggests they aren’t:

The Highway Loss Data Institute, a nonprofit organization funded by the auto insurance industry, compared monthly collision claims in four states that have banned handheld cell phone use before and after the bans took effect.

Research for the study, published Friday, was collected in New York, Washington, D.C., Connecticut, and California. Data was also collected and evaluated from nearby states that do not have such bans, for the sake of comparison. The Highway Loss Data Institute’s research indicates that car collision rates didn’t change after bans went into effect–and they didn’t change for nearby states without such bans, either.

Drivers on cell phones might just be the most visible scapegoat taking the heat for distracted drivers in general. The article is interesting throughout and suggests some neat technological fixes that could make driving safer.

Congress is considering legislation tying federal highway funds to the enactment of such bans. This is a good example of why we shouldn’t make this a federal issue: If the bans aren’t accomplishing anything, it’s better to test them out at the state level than to enforce them nationwide.

[Via @brookeOB1.]

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