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Study shows broader, clearer cell phone restrictions can reduce rear-end crashes

man driving while holding cell phone
Dmitry Vechorko
man driving while holding cell phone

Laws that are more explicit about what drivers can and can't do with cell phones can reduce rear-end crashes.

That's the conclusion of a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Institute researcher Ian Reagan said Oregon and Washington passed laws using plain, straightforward language forbidding all handheld use of cell phones, even at traffic stops.

Rear-end crashes subsequently went down by 9% for Oregon and 11% for Washington.

Reagan said the deterrent is both the clarity of the laws themselves, and how the language helps police enforce them.

"They can write a ticket and the driver is a lot less likely to get out of it because there aren't loopholes," he said.

Reagan said other studies indicate that distractions like cell phone use while driving increase the risk of crashes by three to four times. For teen drivers, that number is even higher.

The Michigan House recently approved a bill (HB 4277) banning all handheld use of cell phones while driving.

In addition, hands-free modes to view social media or videos would also be banned.

Another bill (HB 4279) would ban teen drivers from using cells phones entirely while driving. 

The bills have cleared a state Senate committee.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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