Driver cellphone and texting bans in the United States: evidence of effectiveness

McCartt, Anne T. / Kidd, David G. / Teoh, Eric R.
Annals of Advances in Automotive Medicine
March 2014

Almost all U.S. states have laws limiting drivers’ cellphone use. The evidence suggests that all-driver bans on hand-held phone conversations have resulted in long-term reductions in hand-held phone use, and drivers in ban states reported higher rates of hands-free phone use and lower overall phone use compared with drivers in non-ban states. Bans on all phone use by teenage drivers have not been shown to reduce their phone use. The effects of texting bans on the rates of drivers’ texting are unknown. With regard to the effects of bans on crashes, 11 peer-reviewed papers or technical reports of all-driver hand-held phone bans and texting bans were reviewed. Some were single-state studies examining crash measures before and after a state ban; other national or multi-state studies compared crashes in states with and without bans over time. The results varied widely. The lack of appropriate controls and other challenges in conducting strong evaluations limited the findings of some studies. Thus, despite the proliferation of laws limiting drivers’ cellphone use, it is unclear whether they are having the desired effects on safety. Priorities for future research are suggested.

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