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Could the Dangers of Driving and Using a Cell Phone Be a Bunch of Baloney? — Health Check

Jim Legans, Jr, Flickr

In recent years, study after study has raised the alarm about the dangers of talking on the phone while driving, with some saying you could be four times as likely to have a crash if you’re using a phone behind the wheel.

But new research indicates it may have been much ado about nothing.

Previous studies compared data from crashes alongside cell phone records to see who was using those phones when the mishaps occurred. But Richard A. Young of Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit says the problem with that methodology is people may not have been driving during the entire control window, and “part-time” driving would cut the odds of having an accident and make it seem like cell phone use is a bigger crash risk than it is.

He conducted a new study using GPS and found that on the days of an accident, many people were simply on the road more — something that by itself would already increase their odds of having a crash. If that had been factored into previous studies, he says, the crash risk tied to cell phone use would have been statistically insignificant.

That said, this doesn’t mean it’s okay chat and text while driving.

“In wider policy, I don’t think this study is going to change the conversation about distracted driving,” said Fernando Wilson, an assistant professor at the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth. “Most of the conventional thinking is that we need to do something to reduce it.”


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