Cell phone ban may not reduce fatal Illinois car accidents

A new study calls into question whether tough new laws banning cell phone use or text messaging by drivers are having any impact in reducing the number of serious and fatal car accidents.

As we reported in the fall on Chicago Car Accident Lawyers blog, it has been illegal for drivers to use cell phones in the city of Chicago since 2005 and Illinois passed a law that took effect Jan. 1, which makes it illegal to text message or use hand-held cell phones in school zones and construction sites.

However, the new study by the Highway Loss Data Institute, an affiliate of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, questions whether the new laws are reducing fatal traffic accidents, the USA Today reported.

The National Highway Traffic Administration reported almost 6,000 people were killed by distracted drivers in 2008, accounting for about 1 in 5 traffic fatalitites. However, the study examined crashes in New York, Connecticut, California and Washington, D.C., before and after handheld bans took effect and found no reduction in crashes.

“The key finding is that crashes aren’t going down where handheld phone use has been banned,” Insurance Institute President Adrian Lund said in a statement. “This finding doesn’t augur well for any safety payoff from all the new laws that ban phone use and texting while driving.”

Nationwide, the government reported 5.9 million accidents in 2006, compared to 5.8 million last year. But, by analyzing crash claims, the Insurance Institute found no statistical difference attributable to cell phone bans.

One possibility is that drivers have switched to hands-free models, which research suggests are really not all that much safer than hand-held phones.

The study comes as an increasing number of states move to ban texting while driving; 23 states are considering such restrictions, while such bans are currently in place in 19 states. Earlier this year, the federal government banned hand-held devices from use by all bus drivers and commercial truckers.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, the Chicago car accident attorneys and the personal injury and wrongful death lawyers at Abels & Annes offer free and confidential appointments to discuss your rights. Call (866) 99-ABELS. There is no fee unless you win.

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