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Cell phone bans may not lead to safer roads, reduced auto insurance rates

Bans on cell phone use do not result in fewer auto insurance claims, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said before Congress last week.

In a preliminary study of the effects of cell phone bans on driver behavior, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety determined that there was no correlation between restricted cell use and reduced auto insurance claims.

The institute looked at claims made in states that had enacted laws against calling or texting while driving. Although past scientific data has indicated that calling and texting distract drivers – the IIHS calls cell phone use “a risk factor for crashes and impaired driving performance” – the states that had banned cell phone use did not see reduced accident rates.

And, remarkably, accident rates in the U.S. fell between 2000 and 2005, even as cell phone use in the country increased. Observational studies cited by the IIHS report that drivers’ cell phone use doubled between 2000 and 2005, but “police-reported crash frequencies in the United States have declined” during that time.

A well-designed study found that crash risk was 4 times higher when a driver was using either a hands-free or hand-held phone, so curbing phone use may well lead to fewer accidents and lower auto insurance costs.

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Posted: November 09, 2009

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