Cell Phone Driving Risk Overestimated

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Last updated April 12, 2019

Past studies may have overestimated the risk of car crashes due to distracted driving caused by using a new or old cell phone while operating a motor vehicle, according to a new analysis.  “Distracted driving” has become a hot topic in recent years, with the great majority of states in the US now having banned texting while behind the wheel and a handful having also prohibited any use of handheld devices while driving.

Studies have however reached different conclusions as to the level of extra risk of a crash because of using such devices, with a new report indicating that at least two major studies on the subject may have actually overestimated the level of risk.  Richard A Young from Detroit’s Wayne State University of Medicine says that the studies in question, one from Canada from 1997 and the other from Australia from 2005, used faulty methods.  The studies looked at people who had been involved in a car crash and checked their cell phone records to compare their use of the device around the period of the crash with their use of it the week before.  However, it failed, he says, to take into account “part time driving” in the prior week, thus making the odds of having a crash while using a cell phone seem to be larger than they actually may be.  Young’s own study implies that the risk of crashing caused by cell phone use is statistically insignificant – a major difference from the other studies.