Study: Only laws that prohibit all handheld cellphone use while driving save lives

Researchers encourage lawmakers to pass comprehensive handheld cellphone bans and parents to teach safe habits to new drivers

(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – Unfortunately, it is common to glance over in traffic and see a driver looking at their phone or taking a call. Now, a new study reveals just how dangerous it is for drivers to handle their cellphones and how many lives are saved through comprehensive laws that ban all handheld cellphone use while driving.

“We found that comprehensive hands-free cellphone laws were associated with 7 percent fewer driver deaths,” said Motao Zhu, MD, MS, PhD, Principal Investigator with the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and lead author of the study. “However, more specific laws that ban things like calling and texting do not have the same lifesaving benefits, and few states don’t have any laws to regulate cellphone use for drivers.”

The study estimates that bans on all handheld cellphone use while driving prevent nearly 14,000 injuries and 140 driver deaths each year in the U.S., yet they’ve only been enacted in 21 states. 

 “When the laws only ban certain cellphone activities while driving, they are more difficult to enforce and result in lower compliance,” Zhu said. “Our study found that only one type of law is effective, and we are encouraging lawmakers to pass these broad laws prohibiting handheld cellphone use that are now proven to save lives.”

Distracted driving causes more than 3,000 fatal crashes each year in the U.S. and teen drivers are at the highest risk. That’s why it’s so important to teach them the dangers of using a cellphone while driving before they develop bad habits. Even a moment of taking your hands off the wheel, eyes off the road or mind off your driving can have catastrophic consequences. Experts also encourage the use of “driving modes” offered on some smartphones that block notifications and reduce the temptation for drivers to reach for their phones.

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Conner Wren, 16, stows his cellphone in the center console as soon as he gets into the car. Teen drivers are at the highest risk for vehicle crashes and also have the highest cellphone use among drivers, making it extremely important to teach them good habits before they get their driver’s license.

Motao Zhu, MD, MS, PhD led a study at the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital that found comprehensive laws that prohibit all handheld cellphone use while driving prevent crashes and save lives.

Conner Wren, 16, practices safe driving habits, including putting his cellphone away when he’s behind the wheel. A new study led by researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital finds laws that ban all handheld cellphone use while driving prevent injuries and save lives.

Before he got his driver’s license, Conner Wren’s parents taught him the dangers of using a cellphone while driving and that even a moment of taking your hands off the wheel, eyes off the road or mind off your driving can have catastrophic consequences.



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