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Dialing While Fishtailing: How Mobile Phones, Hands-Free Laws, and Driving Conditions Interact to Affect Traffic Fatalities

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  • Kolko, Jed

Abstract

Most rich countries in the world and four US states require drivers talking on mobile phones to use hands-free devices. However, previous research has failed to arrive at a consensus on the effect of mobile phones on traffic accidents yet has concluded that the effect of hands-free and hand-held phones on accidents is similar. This paper uses state-level data from 1997-2005 on mobile phone ownership, traffic fatalities, and hands-free laws and finds that (1) mobile phones contribute to traffic fatalities and (2) hands-free laws appear to reduce fatalities. Specifically, mobile phone ownership results in a large and statistically significant increase in traffic fatalities in bad weather or wet road conditions, with no effect in good weather or dry road conditions. Laws requiring drivers to use hands-free technologies while talking reduce traffic fatalities in adverse conditions, and the effect grows stronger and becomes statistically significant the longer the law is in effect, although these longer-term effects are based solely on New York, which in 2001 became the first state to have a hands-free law. The analysis relies on microdata from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System to estimate effects for traffic fatalities in different conditions and to isolate fatalities unlikely to be affected by confounding changes in alcohol policies or graduated licensing laws.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 4135.

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Date of creation: 17 Jul 2007
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Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:4135

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Keywords: mobile phones; cell phones; traffic fatalities; hands-free laws; driving; safety; accidents;

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  1. Steven D. Levitt & Jack Porter, 2001. "How Dangerous Are Drinking Drivers?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 109(6), pages 1198-1237, December.
  2. Jeffrey R. Brown & Austan Goolsbee, 2002. "Does the Internet Make Markets More Competitive? Evidence from the Life Insurance Industry," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(3), pages 481-507, June.
  3. Ashenfelter, Orley & Greenstone, Michael, 2003. "Using Mandated Speed Limits to Measure the Value of a Statistical Life," Working paper 86, Regulation2point0.
  4. James E. Prieger & Robert W. Hahn, 2005. "The Impact of Driver Cell Phone Use on Accidents," Working Papers 520, University of California, Davis, Department of Economics.
  5. Betsey Stevenson, 2009. "The Internet and Job Search," NBER Chapters, in: Studies of Labor Market Intermediation, pages 67-86 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Austan Goolsbee, 2000. "In A World Without Borders: The Impact Of Taxes On Internet Commerce," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 115(2), pages 561-576, May.
  7. Alma Cohen & Liran Einav, 2003. "The Effects of Mandatory Seat Belt Laws on Driving Behavior and Traffic Fatalities," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 85(4), pages 828-843, November.
  8. Cohen, Alma & Dehejia, Rajeev, 2004. "The Effect of Automobile Insurance and Accident Liability Laws on Traffic Fatalities," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 47(2), pages 357-93, October.
  9. Dee, Thomas S., 1999. "State alcohol policies, teen drinking and traffic fatalities," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 72(2), pages 289-315, May.
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