Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) recently published a study about the dangers of driving while using a cellphone. Their findings raise questions about the effectiveness of criminalizing cellphone use behind the wheel.
The MIT study suggests the real problem may be drivers who engage in risky driving behavior with or without using cellphones. The study does not dispute the well-established facts linking cellphone use while driving with higher accident rates. Peer-reviewed psychological studies have found that even talking on a hands-free phone while driving can impair reaction time as much as drinking can-though talking with people present in the vehicle does not.
Texting while driving has drawn a lot of attention and it was only involved in 160,000 crashes in 2010-about 3 percent. One out of every five accidents that year-20 percent, or 1.1 million out of 5.4 million crashes-happened with drivers talking on cellphones when the accidents happened. Yet while 39 states outlaw texting and driving, only 10 outlaw phone use, and none outlaw hands-free phone use.
According to MIT, such laws may make little difference. Their study observed 108 drivers, tracking which persons self-identified themselves as often using phones while driving. Those who so identified engaged in riskier driving behavior than did others. Behaviors of such drivers included sudden acceleration and stops, common lane changes, and extended driving in passing lanes. MIT concludes that cellphones don’t cause accidents. Bad drivers are just more likely to use cellphones while driving.
Source: Boston Globe, “Cellphones’ role in crashes doubted,” Hiawatha Bray, August 27, 2012
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