While some folks may think cell phone bans are just another example of government interference in people’s lives, but at least one US state has studied the issue and concluded that their ban actually does reduce accidents and highway deaths.
The California state Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) commissioned a study, which was conducted by UC Berkeley’s Safe Transportation Research and Education Center, that shows the ban on cell phones implemented by the state in July 2008 resulted in a 47% drop in the number of drivers who died while using hand-held cell phones during its first two years.
The study further shows that the cell phone ban has completely changed the behavior of many drivers, and essentially mellowed them out a bit. Though California drivers were initially unhappy with the ban because it interfered with their ability to run their entire lives as they sped down California highways, as time wore on, they got used to the idea, to the point that two years after the law took effect, 40% of drivers reported they either talk on the phone far less, or they use hands-free devices to do so. In addition, 62% of respondents said texting and talking on cellphones were the biggest safety concerns on California roads, while 84% considered texting and talking on cellphones to be the most serious distractions while driving.
Not every Californian has stopped using them, however. An OTS observational study (meaning they watched drivers and counted) conducted last year showed that 9% of drivers were still talking or texting while driving. According to California DMV records, in 2011, 460,487 California drivers were convicted of using a hand-held cellphone while driving, a number that was 22% more than the 361,260 convictions in 2010 and 52 percent more than the 301,833 convictions in 2009.
But this study shows that the cell phone ban has worked, to an extent, in two ways. More drivers are realizing that distracted driving is risky behavior, and most people are complying. What has to happen now is to make the remaining 9% of drivers realize that nothing is more important than safe driving while they’re operating a motor vehicle on a public road — not their jobs, and certainly not their interactions on social media. Getting there safely should be everyone’s goal.
Remember; distracted driving is selfish driving, and we all share the roads.