Cellphone Ban Saves Lives?

by Matt Klassen on February 10, 2010

Since the beginning of the month, motorists in Ontario, BC, and PEI have had to pay a steep price for driving with a cellphone in their hands. After the thirty-day grace period through January, where over 3,000 warnings were handed out in Ontario alone, hundreds have been ticketed in these last few weeks trying to make a call or send a quick text while behind the wheel. With this safety craze that’s sweeping the nation, researchers, if not drivers as well, hope that this new legislation will create safer roads for everyone.

The question remains, though, will banning the use of mobile devices while driving help reduce the number of accidents? The thinking behind this new law seems fairly straightforward; worldwide preliminary research suggests that drivers using mobile devices are four times more likely to get into accidents than drivers who concentrate fully on the road. So, if a law were passed that decreased cellphone use, then there should be fewer crashes. The problem is though, accidents won’t decrease

The New York Times has reported the interesting findings of a recent study conducted in New York State, where a ban on mobile devices while driving has been in effect for almost a decade. The study found that there has been no measurable change in the amount of accidents that have occurred since the 2001 ban than before the ban was put in place. The outcome of the study has confused American transit officials, and has left more than a few disgruntled Canadian drivers wondering why they have to hang up their phones.

To add to the confusion over the results of this study is again the veritable mountain of research that suggests the exact opposite. Research across the globe has demonstrably shown that accidents are far more likely to happen to someone distracted by talking or texting on a mobile device. 

So, what are the implications of these findings? The official response from Adrian Lund, the president of New York’s Highway Loss Data Institute that conducted the study and an affiliate of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, is that there may be several explanations for the surprising findings. One is that drivers, despite not having cellphones in their hands, are still becoming increasingly distracted on the roads. Whether it is fiddling with an iPod, calming a colicky baby, picking something up off the floor, or having a discussion with a passenger; there are many other distractions inside a vehicle besides handheld mobile devices.  

Another possible conclusion is that drivers have simply switched to hands-free devices, which are still considered legal across Canada and the US. The issue with this, however, is that studies have shown that drivers remain just as distracted by a hands-free device then by one they hold in their hand. The bottom line is, officials say, that doing anything other than concentrating on the road while driving puts people at a greater risk for accidents.

So should Canadian drivers be up-in-arms over the results of this study? Perhaps a better course of action would be to stop thinking about it focus on the road!

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca >. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com > by: RSS >, Twitter >, Identi.ca >, or Friendfeed >

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