Cell phone-using drivers four times more likely to crash, study says

| 7/13/2005

Drivers using cell phones – regardless of whether they use a hands-free device – are four times more likely to be involved in a crash, according to a new study.

In a study released Wednesday, July 13, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found the drastically high number by comparing phone use within 10 minutes before a crash with the same driver’s use during the prior week. The study used subjects treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries from crashes between April 2002 and July 2004.

Weather was not found to be a large factor in the crashes – almost 75 percent occurred in clear conditions. Overall, 89 percent of the accidents involved another vehicle, and more than 50 percent of the crashes happened within 10 minutes of the start of the trip.

The study was conducted in Australia, after cell phone providers in the United States were unwilling to provide their customers’ billing records, even with the drivers’ permission.

The study comes just months after a similar study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which showed that hands-free devices don’t improve driver concentration. That study said voice-activated dialing often leads to longer dial times, which offsets any benefit those devices may provide when it comes to drivers keeping their eyes – and thoughts – on the road.