McCartt, Anne T.; Hellinga, Laurie A.; Braitman, Keli A.
Traffic Injury Prevention
The research literature on drivers' use of cell phones was reviewed to identify trends in drivers' phone use and to determine the state of knowledge about the safety consequences of such use.
Approximately 125 studies were reviewed with regard to the research questions, type and rigor of the methods, and findings. Reviewed studies included surveys of drivers, experiments, naturalistic studies (continuous recording of everyday driving by drivers in instrumented vehicles), studies of crash risk, and evaluations of laws limiting drivers' phone use.
Observational surveys indicate drivers commonly use cell phones and that such use is increasing. Drivers report they usually use hand-held phones. Experimental studies have found that simulated or instrumented driving tasks, or driving while being observed, are compromised by tasks intended to replicate phone conversations, whether using hand-held or hands-free phones, and may be further compromised by the physical distraction of handling phones. Effects of phone use on driving performance when drivers are in their own vehicles are unknown. With representative samples of adequate size, naturalistic studies in the future may provide the means to document the patterns and circumstances of drivers' phone use and their effects on real-world driving. Currently, the best studies of crash risk used cell phone company billing records to verify phone use by crash-involved drivers. Two such studies found a fourfold increase in the risk of a property-damage-only crash and the risk of an injury crash associated with phone use; increased risk was similar for males and females, younger and older drivers, and hands-free and hand-held phones. A number of jurisdictions in the United States and around the world have made it illegal for drivers to use hand-held phones. Studies of these laws show only limited compliance and unclear effects on safety.
Even if total compliance with bans on drivers' hand-held cell phone use can be achieved, crash risk will remain to the extent that drivers continue to use or switch to hands-free phones. Although the enactment of laws limiting drivers' use of all phones is consistent with research findings, it is unclear how such laws could be enforced. At least in the short term, it appears that drivers' phone use will continue to increase, despite the growing evidence of the risk it creates. More effective countermeasures are needed but are not known at this time.