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 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.