Impact of Cell Phone Laws on Rear-End Collisions

Woman looking at her phone and texting

In 1995, about 13 percent of the U.S. population had a cell phone or mobile phone. Today, 91 percent of the U.S. population has a cell phone. Most people who drive cars on U.S. roads feel that it is dangerous to use these phones while driving. Studies also confirm cell phone use behind the wheel is a risk, even if the driver is using a hands-free device. Despite the dangers of cell phone use, many motorists continue to be distracted by their phones while driving. In fact, around 11 percent of all motorists are using their phones on the road at any random time of day.

It is no secret that cell phone use behind the wheel can significantly increase the likelihood of a collision. Rear-end crashes are one of the most common types of accidents in the United States. Drivers who are not paying attention to what the car in front of them is doing are more likely to have a rear-end crash because of a delayed reaction when the front driver slows or stops the vehicle. Motorists need to be aware of the fact that cell phones can make rear-end crashes more likely and should avoid the use of a phone while driving.

Cell Phone Bans Reduce Rear-End Collision Rates

Laws prohibiting the use of cell phones or imposing restrictions on their use while driving can sometimes be difficult to enforce because police have a hard time proving whether or not a driver was breaking the rules by texting or talking on the phone. As a result, some question whether these bans are an effective deterrent that actually reduces the risk of motor vehicle accidents.

Research suggests that a cell phone law can have a measurable impact on the number of rear-end accidents. A study conducted by Southern Methodist University looked at data from the state of California since California has strict prohibitions on cell phones. Since 2008, the use of a handheld device by a driver for any purpose has been prohibited in California. Since 2009, drivers under 18 in California have also not been allowed to use even hands-free phones while they are operating their vehicles. The laws limiting handheld phone use are primary enforcement laws so people can be pulled over just for breaking this rule.

From 2006 to 2008, there were 13,552 reported rear-end crashes in California. This was before the ban on cell phones went into effect. After the ban, from 2008 to 2010, there were 11,708 rear-end crashes reported. Most recently, about 29 percent of motor vehicle accidents that result in serious injury are caused by rear-end collisions. Researchers adjusted for other factors like rainfall and more cars on the road that could affect the rate of rear-end crashes and still found that tough cell phone bans had a statistically significant impact on reducing rear-end car crash rates.

Drivers need to be aware that the use of their phone could make a rear-end crash much more likely and motorists should not allow themselves to be distracted.

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