In the July, 2008 issue of The Legal Report, we asked whether the new "hands-free"
law would have the intended effect of making our roads safer. Our prediction
was that the law will have no net effect. A recent study by the Highway
Loss Data Institute agrees (www.iihs.org).
The study has found that state laws banning the use of handheld devices
to make calls or to send text messages while driving has not reduced the
number of vehicle crashes. The Institute examined insurance claims in
California, New York, Connecticut and Washington, D.C. all areas that
have bans and found that the number of vehicle crashes before and after
implementing the bans has not changed, nor was it any different from surrounding
jurisdictions that do not have such bans. Monthly variances in crashes
remained the same as well.
Directly in line with our thoughts from 2008, the HLDI speculated that
(1) the increase in the use of hands-free devices due to the bans has
negated any crash-reducing effect because the risk is the same, regardless
of whether the phones are handheld or hands-free and (2) due to the difficulty
in enforcing the laws or even the perceived difficulty in enforcement
handheld cell phone users are simply ignoring the bans.
Just to be clear, we're not advocating breaking the law or encouraging
you to possibly jeopardize your safety by using your phone while driving.
In fact, in our opinion, the only way to truly reduce vehicle accidents
caused by using a cell phone is to pass a total ban on cell phone use
while driving including the use of hands-free devices. If the state legislature
wants to make our roads safer, we just want to help them get it right.