The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA, 2009) estimates that over 800,000 drivers are using a cell phone at any given time during the day (11 percent of all drivers). Another study on the risk of a collision associated with driver cell phone use found that 3.6 percent of all crashes and near-crashes are the result of a driver distracted by cell phone use (NHTSA, 2006). Public opinion surveys have found that cell phone use is viewed as a dangerous driving action, yet the admitted rates of cell phone use by those same respondents is relatively high. Awareness of the issue has increased to the point that, in September 2009, a national forum of policy makers, law enforcement officials, and academics took place on the issue of distracted driving in Washington, DC.
This issue brief examines the effects of cell phone use on driving behavior and crash risk. Since Indiana only recently implemented a law banning drivers under age 18 from using a cell phone while driving, this brief concentrates on evaluations of the success of legislation in other states, including how varying levels of police enforcement and media publicity contribute to compliance.