NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Drivers Using Cellphones Pose Small Risk

July 24, 2000

More than 94 million Americans have cellphones -- and more than 80 percent use them at least some of the time while driving, raising safety concerns. However, people are much more likely to be hit and killed by a large truck than by a motorist talking on a cellular phone, according to a study conducted by the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis.

  • Researchers put the risk of a driver dying while talking on a cellphone at 6.4-in-1 million and the odds of another motorist being hit and killed by a driver talking on a cellphone at 1.5-in-1 million.
  • By comparison, drivers have a 16.8-in-1 million chance of being killed in a crash with a commercial or heavy-duty truck, and a 17.6-in-1 million chance of being killed by someone who drank alcohol before driving.
  • The researchers found there were fewer fatalities involving cellphones because most calls are made during rush hour when people are driving at fairly moderate speeds.
  • Most accidents involving alcohol, on the other hand, take place at high speeds at night.

These findings come at a time when policy-makers are debating whether motorists should be forbidden to use cellphones while driving. The study concludes that while cellphones do pose some risks, those risks are far outweighed by the benefits of having them available in the event of an auto breakdown so that emergency services can be contacted.

Source: Sara Nathan, "Study: Cellphone Use Isn't Highest Risk on Highway," USA Today, July 24, 2000.


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