According to a study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, hand-held phone bans have no effect on the frequency of car crashes. Wait, what?
Now, this seems different from specifically texting while driving, which is demonstrably dangerous. But in the four states the IIHS studied, the implementation of a ban on hand-held phones behind the wheel made no difference in the number of accidents:
Month-to-month fluctuations in rates of collision claims in jurisdictions with bans didn't change from before to after the laws were enacted. Nor did the patterns change in comparison with trends in jurisdictions that didn't have such laws.
Honestly, this makes some sense, given that it's not phones themselves that are the problem, but the distraction they cause. There are plenty of other legal methods of taking your eyes off the road, and a hands-free conversation isn't necessarily any safer than one where you've got your phone in your hand.
It's unlikely that this will cause any states with bans of cellphone use while driving to backtrack, but it may force other local governments to look a little more broadly at what's behind all those collisions. [NY Times via IIHS]