Using a hand-held mobile phone while driving does not cause more car accidents, a new joint study from the London School of Economics and Carnegie Mellon University has found.
Published this week in the American Economic Journal, the research paper, entitled ‘Driving under the (Cellular) Influence’, also suggests that prohibition of mobile phone use at the wheel is not actually making roads safer.
The paper’s lead author Saurabh Bhargava has defended the “counterintuitive” findings, saying that the paper was one of the few on the topic that used real-world data.
He said: "Using a mobile while driving may be distracting, but it does not lead to higher crash risk in the setting we examined," reported Channel 4 News.
The paper flies in the face of established research, including a 1997 paper which stated that using a phone while driving was as dangerous as drink-driving.
The research into it came about after a decline in the number of road accidents, despite a huge increase in mobile phone use.
Analysing phone call and road accident data in the US between 2002 and 2005, it showed no correlation between increased mobile phone activity – typically after 9pm with drivers being identified as passing through multiple cell towers – and the number of road accidents over the same period.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the UK Government’s Department for Transport disagrees with the findings. Though whether this has anything to do with the revenue generated by penalties issued to mobile phone users – typically £60, but rising to a maximum of £1,000 – it has not said.
It cites previous research likening mobile phone use to drink-driving and is even upping the standard £60 penalty to £100 to – they say – crack down on the problem.
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