It would be difficult to convince any Portland distracted driving lawyer that drivers using cell phones is anything other than a bad idea. Distracted drivers cause literally hundreds of accidents in Oregon every year. Many of those accidents cause serious, permanent, life-changing injuries…or worse.
Illinois are now leading the way in banning drivers from using hand-held cell phones in that state. A bill is pending in the Illinois legislature, and there’s a second suggestion that even hand-free phones should be included in the ban. The problem seems to be that in spite of almost 20 years of research done both in America and overseas, there is no conclusive data on the link between cell phone use and safe driving.
To the casual onlooker, it should be relatively easy to determine whether or not using a cell phone while driving causes accidents. They say if crash data is compared with the phone records of the drivers involved in accidents, the information required to reach a consensus will be immediately to hand. However, there are a number of problems with this suggestion, including:
- Phone records are extremely difficult to obtain in the United States. A number of laws would have to be changed to make access to private phone records more easily accessible.
- In spite of the increasing use of cell phones, overall accident numbers in the U.S. is declining year on year.
- Researchers are finding it difficult to come up with alternative methods of analyzing the correlation between cell phone use and traffic accidents.
Studies elsewhere were more conclusive
In spite of the difficulty American researchers have had compiling conclusive data, information elsewhere supports the Portland distracted driving lawyer’s call for a nationwide ban on cell phone use by drivers. One study from Perth, Australia, looked at crash data for 456 cell phone subscribers who had been in an auto accident that required medical attention. The 2005 report showed that drivers talking on their cell phones were approximately four times more likely to be involved in an accident than drivers who were not on a phone.
Other studies and their conclusions include:
- A 1997 Toronto study which virtually mirrored the Perth report.
- A 2006 University of Utah study maintained that drivers talking on cell phones are equally as likely to crash as those drivers who are at the legal Oregon blood-alcohol limit of .08%.
- The same Utah research showed using hands-free models did little or nothing to improve a driver’s performance.
On the flip side of that same coin, there is strong evidence to show that local bans on drivers using cell phones has both discouraged drivers from using their phones and at the same time sharply decreased the number of injury-related accidents caused by distracted drivers.
That study took place in California over a four-year period during the two years prior to, and the two years after the 2008 statewide ban on the use of hand-held cell phones. The results seemed conclusive.
- Overall traffic fatalities of all kinds dropped by 22 percent in the two years after the ban came into effect.
- Fatal accidents that occurred when drivers were talking on cell phones at the time the accident actually happened fell by almost 50 percent.
- Nearly the exact same numbers were true for drivers using hands-free devices.
Opponents of the ban quote their own studies
Chris Cochran, spokesman for the Office of Traffic Safety, says his organization is skeptical that a ban on hand-held cell phones would make much of an impact on traffic safety. He points to a recent survey of more than 6,000 drivers that show 40 percent already say they are using their cell phones either much less than they used to, or they have given it up entirely. The survey found that:
- More than three-quarters of drivers were likely to answer an incoming call while driving.
- Only 41 percent would place an outgoing call.
- Half those surveyed said they didn’t believe talking on a hand-held device had any effect on their driving performance.
- One in five said they tended to drive more slowly while on a cell phone.
Another study would seem to indicate that using a hands free cell phone was even safer than using no phone at all, if the numbers are to be believed. OnStar provides hand-free cell phone calling for some GM models. In 2009, Wayne State University researchers published data extracted from more than 91 million calls made on the OnStar hands-free system by 324,000 drivers over 30 months.
Some of the study’s more interesting findings included:
- Drivers using the OnStar hands-free system experienced about five airbag deployments for every 100 million minutes of driving. (The OnStar system automatically records airbag deployments and calls a company service representative when a vehicle is involved in a serious accident)
- Those drivers not using the OnStar system to make calls had more than eight air bag deployments per 100 million minutes of driving.
This led researchers to believe that drivers who used hands-free devices faced little or no more risk of an accident than drivers who were not on the phone. However, the study was later criticized for failing to factor in whether the study’s drivers were using conventional cell phones, rather than the OnStar system, when they had the accident that caused the airbags to deploy.
Every Portland distracted driving lawyer would argue that anything that takes a driver’s mind in any way from what’s going on around him is a bad thing. It’s not just cell phones; applying make-up, combing hair, even reading newspapers while driving have all led to serious, sometimes fatal accidents. And any law that helps to protect road users from distracted drivers should be supported.
If you or a member of your family has been injured by a distracted driver, your medical expenses should be covered, and you should be compensated for being the victim of someone who wasn’t paying full attention to what they were doing while behind the wheel of a lethal vehicle. In cases such as this, you should immediately contact a Portland distracted driving lawyer. They will fight for your rights and guide you through the entire process of getting the compensation you deserve, as well as holding the distracted driver responsible.