Cell Phone Crash Stats – New study shows a four-fold increase in accidents while driving and talking on a cell phone.
By Cathy Nikkel/autoMedia.com
Talking on a cell phone while driving can quadruple your chances of a crash
ending with a hospital visit, according to a new study released by the
Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS).
The statistic is an equal opportunity warning. The same statistics apply to
women, men, young or old, hands-free or hand held cell phone users. The study,
entitled the "Role of cellular phones in motor vehicle crashes resulting in
hospital attendance" by S. McEvoy, et. al., is published in the British
Medical Journal, available at www.bmj.com.
IIHS researchers chose Perth, Australia, for the study since cell phone
records were available there to the researchers, and were not in the U.S.
Perth is also a city that bans the use of hand held cell phones while driving.
The study covered a period from April 2002 to July 2004. Subjects were drivers
treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries suffered in auto crashes.
Weather had little to do with the results, since almost 75 percent of the
crashes occurred in clear conditions. Eighty-nine percent of the crashes
involved other vehicles and more than half of the injured drivers reported
that their crashes occurred within 10 minutes of the start of the trip. Even
though Perth bans hand held cell phones, one third of the study's subjects
reported they were using hand held phones. However, injury crash risk didn't
differ from one type of reported phone use to the other.
"This isn't intuitive," said Anne McCartt Institute vice president for
research and an author of the study. “You'd think using a hands-free phone
would be less distracting, so it wouldn't increase crash risk as much as using
a hand held phone. But we found that either phone type increased the risk.
This could be because the so-called hands-free phones that are in common use
today aren't really hands-free. We didn't have sufficient data to compare the
different types of hands-free phones, such as those that are fully voice
The results of the study are based on the experience of 500 drivers and are
consistent with a 1997 study done in Canada that also used cell phone billing
records to uncover increased accident risk from cell phone use. That study
also showed a four-fold increase in the risk of an injury crash. Previous
studies on the hazards of cell phones and driving relied on simulated driving
situations or were very small in scope. This is the first large study of the
on-the-road consequences of mixing cell phones and steering wheels.