Study shows California cellphone ban was ineffective

By Tyson Fisher, Land Line staff writer | 7/18/2014

Whether it is part of the solution or part of the problem, government regulations are targeting technology. However, a University of Colorado Boulder study reveals that there is no evidence that the California cellphone ban decreased accidents.

Daniel Kaffine, associate professor of economics at CU-Boulder and author of the study, compiled the number of accidents that occurred in the six months leading up to the ban on hand-held devices while driving and the number of accidents six months following the ban. Kaffine was shocked when he saw the results.

“(A) lot of prior studies had shown that people who talk on cellphones, while driving, are just as impaired as people who are intoxicated. If it was as bad as drunk driving, we would expect to see a large decline in accidents,” Kaffine explained. “And when we go to the data we just didn’t see any evidence that accidents actually declined in the six months after this ban that was put in place.”

Reasons as to why accidents did not decrease are still unknown at this time, but Kaffine has a few theories. One possibility is that drivers replaced cellphone use with something equally distractive (radio, hands-free device, etc.). The professor also suggests that the driving simulations did not accurately portray real-life applications of cellphone use. Lastly, Kaffine says it is possible that people just did not comply with the new law.

“One of the punch lines, I think, for policymakers in how we might think about these results is that simply passing a ban on something doesn’t always get you the intended results,” said Kaffine. “There are lots of reasons why the hypothetical effectiveness of the ban and the actual effectiveness of the ban may be quite different. And in this case, it looks like the actual effect of the ban was pretty minimal on making roads safer.”

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