Man Without Qualities

Monday, December 02, 2002

Cellphone Car Accidents

That cellphones cause some traffic accidents seems pretty clear. Whether their benefits outweigh their costs is another, more complicated, matter. Perhaps the most peculiar popular assumption concerning automotive cellphone use is that such accidents are mostly caused by the driver using his or her hands with the phone. This assumption has led to political pressure for laws, such as one passed in New York, forbidding the use of cellphones in cars.

The topic has hardly been thoroughly researched, but there is a Canadian study of the matter. In short: The Canadian study found that hands-free phones did not appear to reduce the risk of getting into an accident. Crashes "may result from drivers' limitations with regard to attention rather than dexterity," the Canadian authors suggested.

In addition, one might consider that more people have and use cellphones in their cars because traffic has been getting slower and more congested - something that might be addressed by "congestion pricing" (i.e. putting tolls on) freeways.

UPDATE: A friend responds: "I think I am OK. I have stopped using my cell phone and instead I am now typing on my blackberry while driving."

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