NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Car Phones Are Not A Major Cause Of Accidents

November 16, 1999

One hears proposals that cellular telephones in cars be banned on safety grounds. They cause accidents, the charge goes, because drivers using them are distracted in traffic.

But studies confirm that they are not the culprits they are made out to be.

  • About 77 million Americans now own cell phones.
  • According to a recent study by Robert W. Hahn and Paul C. Tetlock, cell phone use in cars will cause about 10,000 serious accidents this year, leading to 100 fatalities.
  • That is less than 1 percent of the 41,000 expected traffic deaths.
  • Other distractions -- such as tuning the radio, eating and drinking, or intervening during a children's squabble in the back seat -- contribute to some 4,000 deadly accidents annually, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

It has been suggested that headsets for drivers be made mandatory. But research on the costs versus the benefits is inconclusive at this point.

Should drivers be required to pull over to the side of the road and stop when using the phone? That could even increase the number of cell-phone-related accidents, experts warn.

Source: Robert W. Hahn (American Enterprise Institute-Brookings Joint Center for Regulatory Studies), "Driving and Talking Do Mix," New York Times, November 12, 1999.


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