New Study Questions The Link Between Driving While Yakking And Car Crashes

from the no-link? dept

Well, this ought to be a bit on the controversial side. Despite previous studies that have claimed that driving while talking on the phone increases the likelihood of an accident a new study has come out saying that there’s no evidence of a link between driving while on the phone and accidents. Of course, there’s a lot that can be questioned in the study. First of all, it focuses on aggregate data about the increase in mobile phone usage compared to aggregate crash data. You can hide an awful lot of significant information when you only look at the aggregate data. Furthermore, part of the study only looks at fatality crashes, where there could be plenty of other explanations for a decrease in crashes causing fatalities (safer cars, anyone?). The study does also look at overall crash data in seven states, as well as data for accidents at times when people are most likely to be on the phone — and still couldn’t find a link. However, as the authors of the report note, at the very least, it should lead to further study to see whether or not driving-while-yakking is really as big a threat as we’ve been told over the past few years.

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Comments on “New Study Questions The Link Between Driving While Yakking And Car Crashes”

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Pulse says:

It's still a hazard....for some

Though they may not find a link between them, the fact that it not only causes accidents but traffic problems as well still remains. There are some people who DON’T need to have a cell phone in their hand while driving. I’m sure most of you have witnessed a car swerving back into a lane after a brief left or right, only to see them screwing with their cell phone trying to dial a number. Those are the people that either need Bluetooth or some type of hands-free kit for their phone. I’m still all for the ban of having a cell phone up to your ear while driving. It’s just safer that way.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: It's still a hazard....for some

How about just enforcing other traffic laws. If a person is driving erratically for ANY reason, they get a ticket. Those that can drive safely with a phone can. Let’s focus on the real problem and not just a small portion. The radio, people, kids, or a cup of coffee could be the problem that causes erratic driving, but not for everyone in every situation.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Methodology

I bet the same methodology could also be used to show no link between drinking and driving.

While I do have plenty of questions about the methodology of the study in question, I find it unlikely that the same methodology would show no link between drinking and driving. The key difference being that there’s been a clear and massive increase in the number of people driving-while-yakking. The same cannot be said for driving and drinking.

Anthony says:

Re: Re: Methodology

However, most people that drive drunk are not in accidents. I will be reading the full 58 page article in the near future, however, as others have mentioned here and elsewhere, the “bad driving” behaviors (where an accident is avoided by another driver) are related to the withdrawal of attention from the driving task. This withdrawal of attention has been demonstrated unequivocally by the work of David Strayer and others who used EXPERIMENTAL methodology. I doubt there was any manipulation or control (other than statistical) used in a study that “failed to find a difference.” Unfortunately, a failure to find a difference is often uninformative as most statistical tests are geared to set a very high bar for making the claim of “difference.”

Lawrence D'Oliveiro says:

Hearing what you want to hear

Can you say “confirmation bias”? Did you publish a single item about all the pieces of research showing that driving while talking on a cellphone does increase the incidence of crashes? Yet here is one item showing the opposite, and suddenly you think it’s newsworthy. Do I get the feeling you’d rather hear one message than the other?

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Hearing what you want to hear

Can you say “confirmation bias”? Did you publish a single item about all the pieces of research showing that driving while talking on a cellphone does increase the incidence of crashes? Yet here is one item showing the opposite, and suddenly you think it’s newsworthy. Do I get the feeling you’d rather hear one message than the other?

Lawrence, actually, if you follow the links, we’ve pointed to many studies that have shown that talking on mobile phones increases the likelihood of an accident.

However, even if we had not, your point doesn’t make much sense. “Dog bites man” isn’t a story, because it’s common and well known. “Man bites dog” is a story.

This is a “man bites dog” story, because it seems to go against what people think — and that’s what makes it newsworthy.

As for your bizarre claim that we’d “rather” hear about one thing than the other, you will note that we were quite skeptical of the methodology of the study and even pointed to the reasons why it might not be accurate. So I’m having a hard time understanding any of your complaints about this post.

We have posted other stories on other studies, contrary to your claim.

This is newsworthy because it goes against conventional wisdom. And that’s what makes it newsworthy, contrary to your claim.

Finally, we didn’t believe the study and expressed our skepticism, contrary to your claim.

So, what exactly is the problem with the post again?

Dalane says:

We need a real Study

When are we going to see the staudy that proves “bad drivers” cause accidents, not talking, eating, listening to the radio, or smoking. These are all excuses for bad drivers to blame anything other than themselves. As a sociaty we nee to say enough is enough. Take responsiblity for your actions. I live in virginia and we have just passed the “Bad Driver” law that fines bad driving with extremely high fines, in the thousands of dollars, and people are complaining that this is not fair. The answer is simple OBAY THE LAW!!!

The infamous Joe says:

Re: We need a real Study

When are we going to see the staudy that proves “bad drivers” cause accidents

I can get behind that statement, as long as it’s understood that a “bad driver” can be the slow guy in the fast lane.

The problem with the law you mentioned is probably (though I can’t be sure) that cops wouldn’t make a distinction between aggressive driving and bad driving. If I have my turn signal on for longer than 30 seconds waiting for someone to let me go, I’m going to be an ass. It’s that, or sit there for god knows how long.

DISCLAIMER: I live near Boston, maybe drivers in Virginia don’t drive like massholes. 🙂

PhysicsGuy says:

Re: Re: We need a real Study

A law like he states is incredibly unfair, and you mention one very good reason it’s not: improper use of lanes. i can’t stand people who coast along in the passing lane, never passing anyone, and seem shocked when you have to fly past them in the regular lane flipping them off (i’m live in mass too). sometimes i wish i could pull them over and force them to learn the driving laws.

Witty Nickname says:

Cell Phones

I think this study is bunk, and that some people can not handle cell phones while driving. Me being one of them, I can’t drive while using my phone – so I don’t.

That being said I don’t think it should be a law, we have plenty of laws. If I am swerving or speeding, or driving dangerously I should be pulled over whether there is a phone in my hand or not.

Overcast says:

It’s really simple….

Anything that distracts you while driving will increase the risk of you having an accident. Just like talking on the phone, chatting or whatever while using a knife to cut foods.

It’s a tool, that can be – deadly at times, so an intelligent person realizes what his or her limitations are and abides by them.

Someone can simply be daydreaming and not paying attention.

The people who really make me wonder are those who actually do ‘studies’ on common sense issues like this. I mean, seriously – they didn’t know this already?? Do they have a driver’s license? I was told all that in Driver’s Ed.

Regardless of the study, it’s simply common sense.

matt m (user link) says:

makes sense...

I agree that there is strong behavioral evidence that holding something in your hand while driving makes you less able to respond effectively than no holding something in your hand. Still, the overall effect of cell phones use on driving is probably not statistically significant, when you add in all of the other things people do while driving- drinking liquids hot enough to give second degree burns, eating, smoking, reading, looking at the map, yelling at the kids in the backseat, arguing with the backseat drivers. Not to mention being drunk, having poor reflexes, poor vision, driving at a different speed than most other cars, or being completely stressed out by traffic and ready to have a heart attack.

The difference is that the behavior is relatively new, so people worry about it. I stick to cars that have bluetooth.

I actually get more angry about people smoking while driving. How is it safer to hold a burning stick in your mouth and hand while driving a giant gas tank? And why do these idiots continue to throw lit ends of cigarettes out the window? Has no one seen Planes, Trains, and Automobiles? I love to see a little burning stick go flying under my car. Let’s ban that first.

The infamous Joe says:

Re: Ban babies, for the children.

The difference is that the behavior is relatively new, so people worry about it. I stick to cars that have bluetooth.

Ah, but there are also studies that say that hands free != safer. I found one story on it from a few years back here. (Link to NY times) and I have to agree, I find that if I’m paying attention to the person on the phone, I’m not really “seeing” the cars around me– I’ve always thought of it as “autopilot”. I still drive, and react (though, I’ll wager much slower than if I weren’t talking), but if you asked me what exit I was on, or what color the car was I just passed, I’ve have no clue. That’s with or without hands free. Ever look at someone *pretending* to talk on a phone, you can tell they’re pretending because their eyes lack the “far away” look people get when they’re talking on the phone.

The simple fact is that there are features built into cars that distract a driver (radios anyone?) and then a near limitless number of distractions than can be brought in by the driver. Cell phones are no safer or worse, really, as far as I can tell. (Hell, I’d rank a crying baby at the very top of the distraction list– should we ban babies?!)

Off topic: I could be wrong, but I imagine if you dropped a burning ember into your gas tank, it would simply go out due to a lack of oxygen in your gas tank. That’s just a theory, I’ve never tried.

Coaster says:


I don’t see how talking on the cell phone is any more of a distraction that the guy smoking and drinking coffee, or the woman putting on her makeup, or the guy with the map spread across the steering wheel while flying down the freeway. Or the parent trying to swat the brats in the backseat while driving. Or the dog sitting on the drivers lap. or the guy fiddling with the radio station. Or the people who try to eat their drive-through meal on their way to work. Or the woman trying to dig through her purse for something. The list goes on.

So why the focus on cell phones? They aren’t any more or less dangerous.

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