Cell Phones in Cars: A Rare Case for Regulation

by on July 15, 2005 · 12 comments

Cell phones are not nearly as dangerous as people think. There’s no evidence they cause cancer. They do not cause gas pumps to explode. And they are not unsafe on airplanes. (See Adam’s excellent piece on that below). Time and again, wireless telephony, like other new technologies, has been the victim of an overactive culture of fear. Yet, there’s one area where the critics seem to have it right: cellphones and driving don’t mix. New evidence for this came out in an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study published in the British Medical Journal this week.


The study found that drivers using cellphones were four times more likely to be in injury-causing accidents than drivers not using cellphones. This is no surprise–as regular commuters know, that car in front of them weaving, stopping abruptly or just moving dangerously slow pretty likely has a phone-chatting driver. (And I include myself in the mix–I’ve had my share of near-miss cellphone experiences). Surprisingly, the study also found that hands-free driving was dangerous too. That goes against conventional wisdom (most existing state bans exempt hands free use).

Importantly, chatting drivers don’t just endanger themselves–they endanger others around them. For that reason, this is a (rare) case where regulation seems justified. If there’s any role for government regulation, its to protect individuals from the dangerous actions of others. While cellphone bans are no panacea (New York cellphone use in cars is still at pre-ban levels), they seem a step in the right direction. Just as your right to wave your fist stops at my nose, your right to chat while driving stops at my bumper.

  • Snake

    Can any organization with a name like the “Insurance Institute for Highway Safety” be at all impartial or objective? Sounds like the same nannies that brought us mandatory seat belt laws and .08 DUI criteria (soon headed to .04 BAC is suspect).

  • Snake

    Can any organization with a name like the “Insurance Institute for Highway Safety” be at all impartial or objective? Sounds like the same nannies that brought us mandatory seat belt laws and .08 DUI criteria (soon headed to .04 BAC is suspect).

  • sikozu

    Just as your right to wave your fist stops at my nose, your right to chat while driving stops at my bumper.

    That’s all well and good except that what you are advocating for is a law that prevents me from talking on the phone in my car regardless of my proximity to your bumper. Perhaps a better solution (if there just has to be one) would be to impose a penalty if it can be proved that cell phone use contributed to a collision.

    There are any number of things that cause inattention to driving… why stop at cell phone use? Why not include talking with a passenger or eating food or listening to the radio? This sounds like a slippery slope.

  • sikozu

    Just as your right to wave your fist stops at my nose, your right to chat while driving stops at my bumper.

    That’s all well and good except that what you are advocating for is a law that prevents me from talking on the phone in my car regardless of my proximity to your bumper. Perhaps a better solution (if there just has to be one) would be to impose a penalty if it can be proved that cell phone use contributed to a collision.

    There are any number of things that cause inattention to driving… why stop at cell phone use? Why not include talking with a passenger or eating food or listening to the radio? This sounds like a slippery slope.

  • http://www.josephlied.com/ idiot

    i am an idiot and i am lead by richard simmons

  • http://www.josephlied.com/ idiot

    i am an idiot and i am lead by richard simmons

  • o.o.

    every year 2,300 people die and 300,000 people are injured aas the result of accidents cause by driveres talking on cell phones.

    87% of cell phone users who drive talk on their phone occasionally while driveing
    27% talk on their cell phones on over helf their trips

    in the united kingdom and germany if you cause an accident as the result of talking on a cell phone while driving your lisense is taken away and you pay a fine.

    legislation similar would solve the problem of cell phones in cars in the u.s. because it doesnt completely outlaw cell phones in cars it just encourages people to not talk on them.

    cars are meant to get from point a to point b in, cells phones in cars only increase the chances of things going wrong during this simple task, why would we want to complicate things?

  • o.o.

    every year 2,300 people die and 300,000 people are injured aas the result of accidents cause by driveres talking on cell phones.

    87% of cell phone users who drive talk on their phone occasionally while driveing
    27% talk on their cell phones on over helf their trips

    in the united kingdom and germany if you cause an accident as the result of talking on a cell phone while driving your lisense is taken away and you pay a fine.

    legislation similar would solve the problem of cell phones in cars in the u.s. because it doesnt completely outlaw cell phones in cars it just encourages people to not talk on them.

    cars are meant to get from point a to point b in, cells phones in cars only increase the chances of things going wrong during this simple task, why would we want to complicate things?

  • http://www.disney-orlando.org/ Disney World

    great vacation info on disney world in orlando florida , seaworld, universal studios

  • http://www.disney-orlando.org/ Disney World

    great vacation info on disney world in orlando florida , seaworld, universal studios

  • http://www.abc-acupuncture.com/baxqorav tramadol

    81e31de21f46 Great work tramadol tramadol

  • http://www.abc-acupuncture.com/baxqorav tramadol

    81e31de21f46 Great work tramadol tramadol

Previous post:

Next post: