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Accident Deaths Decrease in States That Ban Handheld Cellphone Use While Driving

Cellphone Use While DrivingMotor vehicle accidents are a leading cause of fatalities in the United States. Additionally, millions of motorists receive treatment in emergency departments every year for serious injuries they sustain in motor vehicle accidents. One of the most significant contributing factors to these accidents is driver cellphone use.

Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) suggests nearly 10 percent of US drivers were using a cellphone behind the wheel at any given time during daylight hours in one recent year. Other studies have found that using a cellphone while driving is associated with a substantially greater risk of crashes.

As handheld phones have become ever more prevalent, many states have begun to acknowledge the risks and take steps to ban cellphone use while driving. A recent study published in the journal Epidemiology compared traffic fatality rates in states with and without handheld cellphone bans to determine whether these bans are linked to decreases in traffic fatalities. 

18 States Have Issued Comprehensive Handheld Cellphone Bans

18 U.S. states have enacted comprehensive bans against nearly all types of handheld cellphone use while driving. With a comprehensive ban, drivers are prohibited from texting or otherwise manipulating any handheld cellphones or communications devices behind the wheel. These states often refer to these measures as “drop it and drive” or “hands-free states.”

According to research findings in Epidemiology, more than 340,000 drivers and hundreds of thousands of other road users died in U.S. motor vehicle accidents over the course of a recent 17-year span. During that time, areas that completely banned cellphone use while driving saw significantly lower driver fatality rates than areas with no prohibitions. 

Three States and Washington, D.C. Banned Only Calling and Texting

Three U.S. states and the District of Columbia have banned texting and calling while driving. Another 27 states ban handheld texting but not calling, and two states have no specific handheld cellphone ban at all. Researchers found no noticeable difference in the rate of driver fatalities between states with calling-only bans, texting-only bans, or calling plus texting bans.

These partial handheld bans may be less effective because they are harder to enforce. When a law enforcement officer sees a driver using a handheld device, the officer may not be able to tell if the driver is violating the law by calling or texting or if the driver is engaging in legally permissible activities, such as adjusting GPS inputs.  

21 of 50 States Have Enacted Some Form of Hands-Free Cellphone Driving Law

The Epidemiology study results strongly suggest comprehensive handheld bans are associated with lower driver fatality rates than partial bans or no hands-free cell phone restrictions. 

Experts hypothesize this may be because a comprehensive ban sends drivers a more serious, zero-tolerance message against handheld device usage. When drivers believe law enforcement officers are more likely to take handheld device bans seriously and follow through on enforcement, they may be less inclined to look for loopholes or skirt around the edges of acceptable driving behavior. 

21 U.S. states have some type of hands-free driving law on the books. Researchers strongly recommend hands-free driving laws to decrease the risk of fatalities. 

Contact KRW If You Were a Victim of a Distracted Driving Accident

If you were injured in an accident caused by a distracted driver, you could be entitled to compensation for your losses. Contact the trusted attorneys of Ketterman Rowland & Westlund today to learn more about your options in a free initial consultation.