Your risk of being in a car crash doesn’t rise when you use a cellphone while driving. That’s the startling claim made in a new study published Thursday in the American Economic Journal: Economic Policy.
And, yes, the Carnegie Mellon University and London School of Economics and Political Science researchers do know very well that their findings fly in the face of two decades of thinking on distracted driving.
The new study was based on data from 2002 to 2005. If you can remember back that far, in those days cellphone providers offered free calls on weekdays after 9 PM.
As a result, people would hold back and make many more calls after that time.
The team analyzed eight million crashes across nine states. According to their report, the increased use of cellphones didn’t change the car crash rate.
That’s a pretty direct contradiction to past studies which have compared driving while talking on a cell phone to driving while drunk. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that distracted driving does contribute to car crashes.
In fact, they say that nine Americans are killed every day by distracted driving, including the use of cellphones, texting, and eating.
But the CDC does acknowledge that driving while texting is probably the worst distraction. It combines all three behaviors that the CDC considers especially dangerous — taking your hands off the wheel, taking your eyes off the road, and thinking about something besides driving.
One of the new study’s researchers, LSE’s Vikram Pathania said that their study focused only on talking on the cellphone. “We did not…analyze the effects of texting or Internet browsing…It is certainly possible that these activities pose a real hazard.”
We’ve all heard people argue that if you can talk and drive, you can yap on the cellphone and drive.
Unfortunately, the new car crashes and cellphones study will give those folks fresh ammo.
[photo by Viacheslav Nikolaenko via Shutterstock]