With the guys over in Food and Medical issuing New Truths to replace the Old Truths on a regular basis, I can’t say I’m surprised to see this assertion being challenged:
For almost 20 years, it has been a wide-held belief that talking on a cellphone while driving is dangerous and leads to more accidents. However, new research from Carnegie Mellon University and the London School of Economics and Political Science suggests that talking on a cellphone while driving does not increase crash risk. Published in the American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, the study uses data from a major cellphone provider and accident reports to contradict previous findings that connected cellphone use to increased crash risk. Such findings include the influential 1997 paper in the New England Journal of Medicine, which concluded that cellphone use by drivers increased crash risk by a factor of 4.3 — effectively equating its danger to that of illicit levels of alcohol. The findings also raise doubts about the traditional cost-benefit analyses used by states that have, or are, implementing cellphone-driving bans as a way to promote safety.
“Using a cellphone while driving may be distracting, but it does not lead to higher crash risk in the setting we examined,” said Saurabh Bhargava, assistant professor of social and decision sciences in CMU’s Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences. “While our findings may strike many as counterintuitive, 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.”
Keep in mind that this is just talking: stuff like texting or Google Maps or Facebook has not been shown to be anything but hazardous. And I consider just talking too much of a distraction for myself, so I seldom (as distinguished from “never”) pick up if someone calls while I’m on the road.
Meanwhile, Jack Baruth explains the furor:
This is government in the modern (and perhaps any) age: create a fear that shouldn’t really exist, manipulate the public into hysterics, extract cash from the public and divert it to the most favored recipients. It’s a tactic with an exceptional success rate and an appeal that spans the entire spectrum of political beliefs.
I mean, there were laws against distracted driving long before there were mobile phones, and the attention span of J. Random Driver has never been exemplary.