NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Drivers Still Talking

September 5, 2003

Less than two years ago, New York became the first state to ban the use of hand-held cellular telephones while driving. After the flurry of publicity that initially surrounded the ban, many people to begin using hands-free devices or stopped using cellphones at all while driving. However, compliance with the law has dropped by about half, according to a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Based on cellular phone use by drivers in four upstate New York communities, researchers said they found that:

  • Use of hand-held cellphones plunged by about 50 percent in the months immediately after the police began issuing warnings to drivers in November 2001.
  • By March 2003, usage had returned to where it was before the law was passed -- despite the threat of a $100 fine.
  • About 100,500 citations were issued between December 2001 and February 2003, accounting for about 2 percent of all traffic citations

By comparison, about 73 percent of adults use seat belts today, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. But links between the use of cellular phones and bodily harm are less clear. While most researchers agree that the distraction of cellphone use can play a role in causing accidents, studies have come to different conclusions.

Source: Lydia Polgreen, "To Get the Phone, Drivers Are Willing to Risk Getting a Ticket," New York Times, September 2, 2003.


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