Using a cell phone while driving is A Very Bad Thing. Studies clearly show the accident risk
while texting is eight times greater than when keeping both eyes on the road, and all ten thumbs on the wheel. People talking on cell phones are four times more likely to cause a crash.
That undoubtfulness leads to a hypothesis: Since cell phone use while driving is risky, and cell phone usage has become increasingly common since the mid-1990s, then there must be an increase in accident rates over the period.
Turns out that isn't the case.Number of US highway crashes (1000s)
and miles driven (1,000,000s)
: 1990 - 6,471 (2,144,362); 1995 - 6,699 (2,422,696); 2000 - 6394 (2,746,925); 2005 - 6,159 (2,989,430); 2006 - 5,973 (3,014,116).*
With the minor exception of 1990 to 1995, the number
of accidents per year has been decreasing. The rate
, based upon miles driven, has decreased throughout the period.
There are two ways of looking at this. It could be that improvements in driver training**, car technology, and road design from 1995 - 2006 lowered the overall accident risk faster than cell phone usage increased it.
Alternatively, researchers had no real idea what they meant by risk. "Cell phone usage increases the risk of an accident by four times." If I increase my risk by four times, does my mishap rate go up by the same amount? If it does not, then how does risk have any meaning? If risk does not reflect in rate, then risk becomes a cause without an effect.
Impressionistically, I am find the former explanation unconvincing. ABS and ASC systems have made cars more controllable. However, most drivers have no idea how to use ABS, and ASC is too new in mass market cars to have made any measurable impact.
So I'll go with the latter. The researchers just know that using a cellphone while driving is more dangerous, so they stopped at demonstrating the "cause".
This reminds me of Warmenism. The Cause is obvious, so obvious that very often no ink is spilled looking for the effect. The Arctic icecap has been melting; well, until recently, anyway. Clearly, obviously, that is due to Global Warming, aka Climate Change. Has anyone seen a story on this subject that cited any actual sea or air temperatures?
*2006 is the latest year available.
** Yeah, right.