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Should we ban cell phones in cars? No.

As state legislatures around the country rush to ban the use of cell phones in cars, I thought it would be a good time to pause and consider a few facts about cell phones and traffic safety over the past few years.

Or if you prefer your data in graphs, I made these three with data from the NHTSA, Neilson survey, The Pew Center and the U.S. Census.




These facts and data show us that despite all the sensationalistic claims like “talking on a cell phone is more dangerous than drunk driving,” the rapid proliferation of cell phones and text messaging in cars has not made our roads more dangerous. On the contrary, our roads have become dramatically safer over the last decade.

Is this increased safety due to a decline in carpooling? Perhaps.

After all, if you ignore the results from fancy “eye-ball tracking” studies and driving simulators, which are not very applicable to the real world anyway, and just ask motorists what they find distracting, they will tell you something surprising. Crying children, it seems, are one of the biggest distractions motorists face. At least that is according to a survey conducted by So maybe we should let cell phones be, and just ban carpooling instead.

Driven to distraction

Previous topics mentioned in this post:

Is it time to ban carpooling?

The graph the New York Times doesn’t want you to see

Related Posts with Thumbnails


  1. […] This post has been getting a huge amount of search-engine traffic recently. Thank you for the visits! If you’re looking for more data on the dangers (or lack thereof) of cell phones in cars, check out this post as well. […]

  2. […] Should we ban cell phones in cars? No. A no nonsense post full of facts and graphs about the relationship between cell phones and car crashes. […]

  3. […] the use of cell phones in cars is not a particularly urgent issue. As I’ve written about before, despite the rapid proliferation of cell phones and texting, our roads today are safer than ever. […]

  4. […] Should we ban cell phones in cars? No. (2nd month on list!) A no nonsense post full of facts and graphs about the relationship between cell phones and car crashes. […]

  5. […] all, there is no reason to believe that cell phones are uniquely distracting. Both academic studies and surveys suggest […]

  6. […] I’ve written about before, despite insinuation to the contrary there is no evidence that cell phones are causing more accidents. Sure cell phones can be distracting. But they are no […]

  7. […] anecdotes and shoddy or nonexistent statistics? If that sounds familiar, it is because it is what the entire Distracted Driving series is based […]

  8. […] Well, not really. According to new data released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, traffic fatalities fell by over 8.9 percent last year. That is the fourth straight year that they declined dramatically. When you look at fatalities per-100,000 miles driven, our roads are safer than they have ever been before. […]

  9. Nick M says:

    Are you serious? Which conservative “think tank” do you work for?

    You have zero credibility here. You don’t display article comments, and don’t even list your real name. On the About page you equate universal health care with… free refills on soda??? Give me a break. Your site stinks of lies.

  10. Free Refills says:

    I think you’ll find that I do display article comments. The reason it looked like I did not on this post is because yours was the first comment. The rest were trackbacks, which WordPress counts as comments–and yes, the trackbacks are displayed.

    As to your other assertions, I am actually quite liberal. On this particular issue, however, the arguments that safety advocates are making don’t add up. If cell phones were uniquely distracting, then are roads today wouldn’t be safer than ever before.

    And as to equating Free Refills to universal healthcare—well, sarcasm. Besides, thanks to President Obama we now have both health care AND free refills! Score America.

  11. […] if we needed any more proof that the push for cell phone bans is driven emotion and fear more than rational debate. But I guess since the main effect of this legislation is to appease stay-at-home moms and […]

  12. Mauricio says:

    Why do you publish confusing graphs trying to suggest cause-effect relationship where there is not cause-effect relationship? If you love America, you should avoid to make propaganda for companies which do not mind Americans’ pain. I hope you are just pretending to be clever.

    Would you put either your child or your mother to cross a small street while a driver, chatting in his or her cell phone, is driving in the street?
    Would not the decreasing tendency of fatalities (which is caused by many things but the cell phones) be better with a ban for cell phones while driving?
    What about a surgeon arguing with his wife for cell phone while performing surgery? Do you need a serious study to establish that it is dangerous?

    Cell phones are great, but some few restrictions are necessary. They would yield a great deal of quality of life for Americans.

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