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Cell phone driving risk

Just about anyone would concede that distracted driving in general is dangerous and puts a driver at an elevated risk of causing a car accident. But some now question the methodology of the studies that highlight the danger of using cellular phones behind the wheel. The findings come as a result of a study at the Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit, Michigan, which questioned results of previous studies.

The researcher who conducted the recent studied identified key procedural issues in the other two studies. Their means of comparing cellular phone records to the driving habits of car crash victims may have led to flawed data that suggested cellular phone use was a bigger risk than it actually was.

The new study tracked 439 drivers for 100 days. His study showed that the driving patterns for individuals were anything but consistent. The researcher argued that if the previous two studies accounted for these inconsistencies in driving, rather than generalize and say the patterns remained the same from day-to-day, it would have showed the crash-risk for using a cellular phone is truly not that high.

The previous studies claimed that by using a cellular phone behind the wheel, drivers were four times more likely to get in a crash. Under the recent study, the crash-risk was so low, the researcher did not even count it as significant.

This particular researcher is not the only one refuting the initial claims. Smaller studies have also suggested that the use of cellular phones does not elevate a driver's crash risk.

At the end of the day, it depends on what school of thought you subscribe to. Most people recognize texting and driving as a real hazard and a University of North Texas Health Science Center study revealed that it contributed to a 28 percent increase in distract driving deaths between 2005 and 2008.

Reuters News "Studies may have overestimated cellphone crash risk," Amy Norton, Dec. 12, 2011

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