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Handheld cellphone use was banned in California on July 1, 2008. In order to call someone, drivers would have to use Bluetooth. Texting and emailing would not be allowed at all while driving.

It’s now been nine years since this law went into effect. Legislators had hoped that the law would reduce car accidents and make our roadways generally safer. Were they right?

In a nutshell, no. While there has been so much talk about texting and other cell phone being the top distraction for motorists, the statistics don’t back up this claim. They aren’t really showing any huge decreases in accident rates. In fact, nearby states Nevada and Arizona don’t have cell phone bans, and California’s car accident trends are similar to those states.

Crashes have decreased only slightly. In the 18 months before the cellphone ban was passed, the rate was just above 8 crashes per 100 vehicles. A year later, that rate went down to 7.5 crashes per 100 – not the level of decrease lawmakers were hoping for.

Recent Studies And Statistics Regarding Cell Phone Bans

Experts claim that if just a small percentage of drivers stop using their phones, then accidents would decrease much more. So why aren’t the statistics in line with this claim? Because drivers aren’t actually using their phones less.

The ban has done little to keep motorists off their phones. In fact, a survey of drivers in Southern California showed that texting rates actually increased after the ban. In states with no ban, 48 percent of people text while driving. In states with cellphone bans, 45 percent of drivers still text. Apparently, many drivers simply ignore the ban and continue to text and drive anyway. You probably see these people on your way to work or while running errands around town.

Another thing that researchers have found is that the act of not having both hands on the wheel does not directly contribute to car accidents. Phone calls and texts have emotional involvement attached to them in many cases. Drivers get so engrossed in what they are texting or talking about that they lose their focus. They have less focus on the dangers in the roadway.

There are studies pointing to good news, however. Traffic fatalities in California declined the first six months after the ban went into effect. Another study shows that texting bans contribute to a 7 percent decrease in hospitalizations due to car accidents.