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Driving while using a mobile phone ‘does not lead to higher crash risk’

Using a mobile phone while driving is certainly distracting. However, a controversial new study claims the illegal practice may not actually increase the risk of crashing.

Data from mobile phone networks and accident reports collected and analysed by researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and the London School of Economics and Political Science found there was no direct correlation between the quantity of phone calls made during a certain time period and the number of crashes that took place during the same time.

“Using a cellphone while driving may be distracting, but it does not lead to higher crash risk in the setting we examined,” said assistant professor of social and decision sciences at Carnegie Mellon University Saurabh Bhargava. “While our findings may strike many as counter-intuitive, our results are precise enough to statistically call into question the effects typically found in the academic literature.

“Our study differs from most prior work in that it leverages a naturally occurring experiment in a real-world context,” Bhargava added.

The research looked at calling and crash data in the US between 2002 and 2005. During that time networks began to offer free calls from 9pm onwards. Even though the introduction of free calls lead to a 7 per cent increase in mobile phone call activity for drivers, a practice distinguishable because of the use of routing calls through multiple cellular towers, no corresponding effect on crash rates was found.

The findings are in stark contrast to other reports, including a study by the New England Journal of Medicine that claimed mobile phone use actually increased the crash risk factor by 4.3, putting it on a par with drink-driving. Another recent study suggested even the use of a hands-free kit had a serious impact on driver reaction times.

One theory as to why using your blower at the wheel might be considered safe stems from driver behaviour. Those who use their mobile phone are said to drive more carefully and are selective in deciding when to take a call.

The study admitted texting and other tasks possible on a smartphone could be dangerous.

Via: Daily Mail

Image: Flickr 



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