A study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows that the cell phone ban in DC has done nothing to reduce crashes.
Using actual crash statistics, it shows there was no significant difference in the number of accidents in the District, California or New York in the months before and after hands-free laws went into effect.
"Our concern with hand-held bans has been that these laws are encouraging drivers to go hands-free, which is just as risky," said Jonathan Adkins of the Governors Highway Safety Association. "We need more research and data to determine whether or not hand-held bans should be implemented across the country."
Adkins said his group continues to urge states to pass texting bans but to hold off on addressing other cellphone use "until some clarity is achieved."
That talking on the cell phone while driving is dangerous is pretty well established.
The nonprofit National Safety Council, which blames 1.4 million crashes annually on cellphone use, called last year for a ban on cellphone use while driving.
The step to take next is not to stop the process of banning distracted driving, but to expand what qualifies as distracted driving to include hands-free phones. It's like we only banned drinking beer and driving, but it's been OK to drink wine or liquor and drive.
"Laws by themselves are not magic bullets," Adkins said. "The laws must be complemented with strong educational programs, enforcement, employer bans and technological advances."
The District has made an effort to enforce the hand-held ban, issuing 7,519 warnings and 12,936 tickets in 2008.
WTOP has the caveat to the study
The research does have some limitations. It looks at all collision claims and does not identify whether drivers were using cell phones when their crashes occurred.
However, prior estimates of the effects of cell phone use on crash risk were so large, and reductions in observed hand-held cellphone use following the laws were so substantial, that reductions even in aggregate crashes would be expected after enactment of hand-held cell phone laws.
So they did see a drop in hand held use because of the law, but I suspect that much of that was replaced by hands-free devices, thus, no drop in accidents.