Does Banning Cell Phones Make Roads Safer?

Let’s face it: driving is dangerous. In an attempt to make our roads safer, many states have cracked down on the use of cell phones while driving.

California State and Cell Phone

California is one of those states. Ever since July 2008, the state of California has banned the use of handheld cell phones, texting included, by all drivers regardless of age or state of residence. For drivers under the age of 18, hands-free devices are banned as well. And as of March 2013, drivers can only use their phone’s GPS or any other map feature if it is hands-free. Check out our road rules here for more detail on exceptions and fines.

These laws don’t just apply to residents of The Golden State. You can still be charged under California law, even if you are merely visiting. This goes for all states, so always know the local laws when you are crossing borders.

You would think that with such strict road rules, car accidents would be on the decline. A recent study found otherwise.

The study, which was published in the August 2014 edition of the journal Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, compared the number of daily car accidents in California in the six months before the handheld cell phone ban was put in place to the number of accidents in the six months following the ban.

The authors adjusted for variables, such as bad weather, holidays, and higher gas prices (which could mean fewer cars on the road), to name a few. But while they expected to see even a slight improvement, there was none to be found.

So what are the implications of this finding? One possible answer is that hands-free, or Bluetooth, devices are just as distracting. Regardless, this study does not let cell phones off the hook. They remain a major distraction to drivers—one punishable by law in the state of California.

As a car accident and personal injury attorney in California and a fellow driver who shares the roadbed with you, I want to remind you of this law. I know how it is all too easy to forget and, in a crunch, reach for your phone to send that one quick text or make that one quick call, but that one quick moment could cost you a hefty fine or, worse, your life or someone else’s.