Talking on a cellphone while driving increases crash risk. A 2005 IIHS study of drivers in Western Australia found cellphone users (both hands-free and hand-held) 4 times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves. The findings were consistent with 1997 research that showed phone use among Canadian drivers was associated with a fourfold increase in the risk of a property damage crash.
Bans on hand-held phone use and texting are increasingly common, but there is no evidence that they reduce crashes. This is the case even though IIHS research has documented that bans on hand-held phone use reduce overall phone use. There is a disconnect between estimated crashes due to cellphone use and real-world crash trends, which indicate that crashes have been declining in recent years, even as driver phone use has increased.
Cellphones and texting aren’t the only things that can distract drivers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration defines distracted driving as any activity that could divert attention from the primary task of driving. Besides using electronic gadgets, distractions also can include adjusting a radio, eating and drinking, reading, grooming, and interacting with passengers.