Chat-and-crash link debunked

Cell phone-happy motorists may exasperate fellow drivers who wish they’d hang up, but a new study from UC Berkeley failed to find a link between phone use and accidents.

The study’s authors, Cal economics graduate students Saurabh Bhargava and Vikram Pathania, reported that increased cell phone use in recent years as well as on weekday evenings was not matched by an increase in crashes from 2002-05.

Their report, “Driving Under the (Cellular) Influence: The Link Between Cell Phone Use and Vehicle Crashes,” is published on the Web site of the American Enterprise Institute-Brookings Joint Center for Regulatory Studies.

The study’s results run counter to the findings of many studies performed in recent years, surprising even the authors themselves.

The study states that the average amount of time a cell phone user spends on calls has jumped more than 500 percent nationwide since 1993.

About 40 percent of motorists admit using cell phones while driving. Calls made just after 9 p.m. on weekdays — the time when free minutes kick in on many cell phone plans — have increased by 20 to 30 percent.

But the jump in the number of calls did not translate into a jump in the number of crashes after

9 p.m, Bhargava said. Additionally, the overall number of crashes, both fatal and nonfatal, had remained flat or fallen since the early 1990s. Data on crashes were taken from seven states from 1987 to 2005.

Bhargava admitted that more study on crashes and cell phone use is needed. He believes the absence of a link between accidents and phones might be because drivers slow down when on the phone or substitute phone chatting for other distractions. It’s also possible that talking on the phone is dangerous for certain groups, such as teenagers, but is beneficial for other groups, such as long-haul truckers who need to stay alert.

Though Bhargava said the study is merely a probe into the connection between accidents and cell phone use, it could cast a different light on a bill by state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, that bans cell phone use while driving in California.

The law is set to take effect on July 1 , 2008.

tbarak@examiner.com

Sound off on this issue! Voice your opinion and vote in our poll at examiNation SF: How do you feel about people talking on cell phones while driving?

Bay Area NewsLocal

Just Posted

California Highway Patrol officers watch as Caltrans workers remove barricades from homeless camp sites as residents are forced to relocate from a parking lot underneath Interstate 80 on Monday, May 17, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
San Francisco’s broken promise to resolve homeless encampments

‘There is an idea that The City is leading with services, and they are not’

Gabriela Lopez, Alison Collins and Faauuga Moliga were sworn in to the Board of Education on Jan. 7, 2019. The election date for their possible recall is Feb. 15, 2022. (Ida Mojadad/S.F. Examiner)
The silver lining of San Francisco’s ‘recall fever’

Recalls are an expensive but valuable amplifier for everyday people

The Department of Building Inspection, at 49 South Van Ness Ave., has been mired in scandal since since its creation by voter referendum under Proposition G in 1994. (Courtesy SF.gov)
The Department of Building Inspection, at 49 South Van Ness Ave., has been mired in scandal since its creation by voter referendum under Proposition G in 1994. (Courtesy SF.gov)
Whistleblowing hasn’t worked at San Francisco’s Department of Building Inspection

DBI inspectors say their boss kept them off connected builders’ projects

FILE — Mort Sahl on Nov. 10, 1967. Sahl, who confronted Eisenhower-era cultural complacency with acid stage monologues, delivering biting social commentary in the guise of a stand-up comedian and thus changing the nature of both stand-up comedy and social commentary, died on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021, at his home in Mill Valley, Calif., near San Francisco. He was 94. (Don Hogan Charles/The New York Times)
Legendary local comedian dies at 94

By Bruce Weber NYTimes News Service Mort Sahl, who confronted Eisenhower-era cultural… Continue reading

Most Read