Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Cell-phone bans while driving have more impact in dense, urban areas

Date:
February 10, 2010
Source:
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Summary:
A new study analyzing the impact of hand-held cell phone legislation on driving safety concludes that usage-ban laws had more of an impact in densely populated urban areas with a higher number of licensed drivers than in rural areas where there are fewer licensed drivers.

A new study analyzing the impact of hand-held cell phone legislation on driving safety concludes that usage-ban laws had more of an impact in densely populated urban areas with a higher number of licensed drivers than in rural areas where there are fewer licensed drivers, according to a University of Illinois researcher.

The study, conducted by Sheldon H. Jacobson, a professor of computer science and the director of the simulation and optimization laboratory at Illinois, analyzed the relationship between pre- and post-law automobile accident rates using public data from 62 counties in New York.

Jacobson and co-researchers Alexander G. Nikolaev and Matthew J. Robbins published their results in an article titled "Evaluating the Impact of Legislation Prohibiting Hand-Held Cell Phone Use While Driving," which will appear in a forthcoming issue of the journal Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice.

The team found that after banning hand-held cell phone use while driving, 46 counties in New York experienced lower fatal accident rates, 10 of which did so at a statistically significant level, while all 62 counties experienced lower personal injury accident rates.

They also discovered that the personal injury accident rate decrease was more substantive in counties such as Bronx, New York and Queens, where there was a high density of licensed drivers rather than in sparsely populated areas of upstate New York.

"What that suggests is, if you have a congestion of cars and you're distracted, you're more likely to hit someone," Jacobson said. "If you have a lower congestion of cars, you're still distracted, but you're less likely to hit anyone because there are less people to hit. It's simple probability."

Driver distraction is thought to be the cause of nearly 80 percent of automobile accidents in the U.S., resulting in about 2,600 deaths, 330,000 injuries and 1.5 million instances of property damage annually.

Although a ban on hand-held cell phone use while driving in rural areas has less of an impact on driver safety, Jacobson says that doesn't necessarily mean the ban itself is worthless. "Hand-held cell phone bans are very valuable in high-density urban areas, but less so in lower-density rural areas," Jacobson said. "But that doesn't mean they have no impact in rural areas. It just means that such legislation is less likely to have an impact on driver accident rates."

Jacobson's study differs from other studies in that, rather than focusing on reaction times of simulated drivers in lab setting, it analyzed publicly available data of accident rates published by the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles.

To allow for a proper comparison between time periods, the years 1997 to 2001 were treated as the pre-law time period, and the years 2002 to 2007 were considered as the post-law time period.

"Nobody's done a study like this before," he said. "Everything prior to this is a micro-analysis of reaction time in laboratories by researchers."

The challenge, Jacobson said, was getting the right data to analyze.

"The best state that had the data to analyze was New York," he said. "They've had the hand-held cell phone ban in place since 2001. So we had a lot of data, relatively speaking, in that we had a before-and-after snapshot of accident rates."

Jacobson said one of the limitations of the study is extrapolating the data from New York state and projecting it onto the nation at large.

"That's fraught with problems, but these are limitations we acknowledge," he said. "Every state is unique, but the overall conclusions still stand to reason."

Jacobson, who also holds appointments as a professor of industrial and enterprise systems engineering, of civil and environmental engineering, and of pediatrics at Illinois, says the holy grail of data sets to analyze would be the property damage data collected by insurance companies.

Jacobson says the difference between his study and one recently published by the Highway Loss Data Institute, an affiliate of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, is that he used publicly available data and the number of licensed drivers as a proxy for accident prediction.

(The insurance industry-backed report studied pre- and post-ban insurance claims from accidents in California, Connecticut, New York and Washington, D.C. It contends that state laws banning the use of cell phones while driving didn't reduce the number of vehicle crashes.)

If the property damage data were available to Jacobson and his co-researchers, "We could come up with a more definitive statement," he said.

"But even with this, we still saw some very compelling trends that would support the legislative push at the state and federal level for distracted-driver legislation. It's certainly a topical problem."

Another challenge for Jacobson and his team was how to standardize accident data across the counties. Their solution was to use the number of licensed drivers and compare the statistical inferences to licensed-driver density.

"Measuring the throughput of cars is very difficult," Jacobson said. "As a result, using the number of licensed drivers is a reasonable way to standardize, and licensed-driver density provided an interesting measure to compare the counties."

"Measuring the throughput of cars is very difficult," Jacobson said. "As a result, using the number of licensed drivers is a reasonable way to standardize, and licensed-driver density provided an interesting measure to compare the counties."

The measures of traffic safety considered in the study are the number of fatal automobile accidents per 100,000 licensed drivers per year and the number of personal injury accidents per 1,000 licensed drivers per year, Jacobson said.

For the purpose of analysis, the personal injury accident rate proved to be a more appropriate measure.

"The trend that we saw was that high-density driving areas tended to have a more precipitous drop in the number of fatalities and accidents after the ban was implemented than in lower-density areas," Jacobson said. "This was more pronounced for personal-injury rates than it was for fatality rates."

Jacobson acknowledges that other factors also could influence accident rates.

"There could be education programs that are bringing these numbers down, or a particular area had a series of bad winter storms or multi-year road construction projects, which would inflate the numbers," he said.

Despite the exponential growth in cell phone subscribers, Jacobson says that all the evidence suggests that hand-held cell-phone bans while driving are worthwhile.

"All the evidence suggests hand-held cell phone bans while driving are a good thing, and this is more evidence to that effect," he said. "But it doesn't establish it definitively. There's still more work to be done, but this helps to further clarify the picture."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "Cell-phone bans while driving have more impact in dense, urban areas." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 February 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100209131641.htm>.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (2010, February 10). Cell-phone bans while driving have more impact in dense, urban areas. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100209131641.htm
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "Cell-phone bans while driving have more impact in dense, urban areas." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100209131641.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

TSA Administrator on Politics and Flight Bans

TSA Administrator on Politics and Flight Bans

AP (July 24, 2014) TSA administrator, John Pistole's took part in the Aspen Security Forum 2014, where he answered questions on lifting of the ban on flights into Israel's Tel Aviv airport and whether politics played a role in lifting the ban. (July 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Creative Makeovers for Ugly Cellphone Towers

Creative Makeovers for Ugly Cellphone Towers

AP (July 24, 2014) Mobile phone companies and communities across the country are going to new lengths to disguise those unsightly cellphone towers. From a church bell tower to a flagpole, even a pencil, some towers are trying to make a point. (July 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Algonquin Power Goes Activist on Its Target Gas Natural

Algonquin Power Goes Activist on Its Target Gas Natural

TheStreet (July 23, 2014) When The Deal's Amanda Levin exclusively reported that Gas Natural had been talking to potential suitors, the Ohio company responded with a flat denial, claiming its board had not talked to anyone about a possible sale. Lo and behold, Canadian utility Algonquin Power and Utilities not only had approached the company, but it did it three times. Its last offer was for $13 per share as Gas Natural's was trading at a 60-day moving average of about $12.50 per share. Now Algonquin, which has a 4.9% stake in Gas Natural, has taken its case to shareholders, calling on them to back its proposals or, possibly, a change in the target's board. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com
Robot Parking Valet Creates Stress-Free Travel

Robot Parking Valet Creates Stress-Free Travel

AP (July 23, 2014) 'Ray' the robotic parking valet at Dusseldorf Airport in Germany lets travelers to avoid the hassle of finding a parking spot before heading to the check-in desk. (July 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile: iPhone Android Web
          Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins