Institute research has documented that all-driver bans on hand-held phone conversations can have large and lasting effects on phone use. Based on observations of drivers conducted up to seven years after bans were implemented in New York, the District of Columbia and Connecticut, the rates of driver hand-held cellphone conversations were an estimated 24-76 percent lower than would have been expected without a ban.
In a 2009 telephone survey, 56 percent of drivers in states with bans reported they use phones when driving, compared with 69 percent in states without such laws.
The proportion of drivers who talked on phones and always talked hands-free was 22 percent in states with all-driver bans on hand-held phones and 13 percent in states without all-driver bans.
Phone bans seem to have less effect on younger drivers. Since Dec. 1, 2006, North Carolina has banned the use of any telecommunications device by drivers younger than 18. Eleven percent of teenagers leaving high schools in the afternoon were using phones prior to the ban, and this did not change significantly when measured five months after the restriction took effect or two years later.
There is scant information on drivers’ compliance with texting bans. The Institute’s 2009 survey of drivers found that among 18-24 year-olds, 45 percent reported texting while driving in states that bar the practice, just shy of the 48 percent of drivers who reported texting in states without bans.
Among drivers ages 25-29, 40 percent reported texting in states with bans, compared with 55 percent in states without bans.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has conducted high-visibility enforcement campaigns in Hartford, Conn., Syracuse, N.Y., the Sacramento Valley Region in California, and in the state of Delaware as a way to increase compliance with cellphone and texting bans. After programs of publicized, high-intensity enforcement of hand-held cellphone and texting bans were implemented, the number of drivers observed holding a phone to their ear declined by 57 percent in Hartford, 32 percent in Syracuse, 34 percent in the Sacramento Valley region and 33 percent in Delaware.
Significant declines also were observed in 3 of the 4 groups of comparison communities where high-visibility enforcement campaigns were not conducted. Observed manipulation of hand-held phones (e.g., dialing, texting) decreased significantly in Syracuse, N.Y., and Hartford, Conn., following the enforcement initiative and did not decrease in the comparison communities.