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Wall Street Journal Offers Its Take, Which Is Our Take, On Why Cellphone Bans Don’t Decrease Accidents

The Wall Street Journal Wednesday did an entire story elaborating on a topic we touched on earlier this week: That it shouldn’t be a surprise that bans on hand-held cellphone use and texting while driving apparently don’t reduce the number of accidents.

The Journal story was a follow-up on a study released last week by the Highway Loss Data Institute (HDLI) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The study didn’t find any significant drop in accident claims in states that have barred the use of cellphones while driving.

That HLDI survey flies in the face of other research and what common sense would dictate: That without the distraction of using a handheld cellphone, there should be less crashes. But that wasn’t necessarily so. The Journal reported that New York banned the use of hand-held cellphones in November 2001, and driver cellphone use decreased 47 percent. And while there was a drop in monthly collision claims in the Empire State, that trend had begun before the ban was passed, according to The Journal.

An HLDI official, Kim Hazelbaker, told the newspaper that the institute was surprised at the results of its own research. The Journal cited a number of possible reasons why the number of crashes didn’t decrease after the cellphone and texting bans.

The bans are not being enforced, some said. And then the story cited the reason we previously pointed out, namely that talking on any type of phone while driving can be a deadly distraction.

A spokesman for the Governors Highway Safety Association claimed that in light of the HLDI study, it recommends that states enact bans on motorists texting but wait before barring cellphone use.

The IIHS said it’s long argued there hasn’t been a huge spike in car accidents, despite the proliferation of cellphones.

The U.S. Department of Transportation, according to The Journal, will be launching two pilot programs in New York and Connecticut to see what happens when authorities enforce cellphone bans as strictly as they do drunk-driving and seat-belt laws.

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