Some 140 driver fatalities and 13,900 driver injuries are prevented every year in the United States due to the implementation and enforcement of hands-free laws, according to a new study from the Center for Injury and Research Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
Hands-free laws prohibit drivers from handling cell phones for any reason while behind the wheel.
Noteworthy, the researchers found that while total cellphone bans were associated with fewer driver deaths, partial laws that allow for calling-only, texting-only, texting plus phone-manipulating and calling and texting bans did not move the needle in lowering fatality rates.
To arrive at their conclusions, the team conducted a longitudinal panel analysis of traffic fatality rates by state, year, and quarter.
The researchers also evaluated previous large studies in the U.S. that continuously monitored drivers and found that cellphone use was associated with 2 to 6 times higher risk of crashes. More specifically, cellphone use with visual–manual distractions, that is, texting and dialing, was associated with 3 to 24 times higher risk. Talking on a handheld cellphone was related to a 2 to 3-fold increased risk for drivers under 30 but was not associated with increased risk meaningfully for drivers 30 to 64 years.
Distracted driving claimed the lives of 3,142 people across the nation in 2019 alone, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
As of June 2021, 21 of 50 states have implemented hands-free cellphone laws, which prohibit all handheld cellphone use including texting, calling and using apps. Three states and the District of Columbia (DC) have banned calling and texting, 24 states ban texting, and two states had no prohibition on cellphone use for drivers of any age.