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The Impact of Driver Cell Phone Use on Accidents


  • Hahn Robert W.

    () (Executive Director of the American Enterprise Institute-Brookings Joint Center for Regulatory Studies and Resident Scholar at AEI)

  • Prieger James E

    () (Associate Professor in the Pepperdine School of Public Policy)


Cell phone use is increasing worldwide, leading to a concern that cell phone use while driving increases accidents. Several countries, three states and Washington, D.C. have banned the use of hand-held cell phones while driving. In this paper, we develop a new approach for estimating the relationship between cell phone use while driving and accidents. Our approach is the first to allow for the direct estimation of the impact of a cell phone ban while driving. It is based on new survey data from over 7,000 individuals.This paper differs from previous research in two significant ways: first, we use a larger sample of individual-level data; and second, we test for selection effects, such as whether drivers who use cell phones are inherently less safe drivers, even when not on the phone.The paper has two key findings. First, the impact of cell phone use on accidents varies across the population. This result implies that previous estimates of the impact of cell phone use on risk for the population, based on accident-only samples, may be overstated by about one-third. Second, once we correct for endogeneity, there is no significant effect of hands-free or hand-held cell phone use on accidents.

Suggested Citation

  • Hahn Robert W. & Prieger James E, 2007. "The Impact of Driver Cell Phone Use on Accidents," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 6(1), pages 1-39, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:bpj:bejeap:v:advances.6:y:2007:i:1:n:9

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Kolko, Jed, 2007. "Dialing While Fishtailing: How Mobile Phones, Hands-Free Laws, and Driving Conditions Interact to Affect Traffic Fatalities," MPRA Paper 4135, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Nicholas E. Burger & Daniel T. Kaffine & Bo Yu, 2013. "Did California's hand-held cell phone ban reduce accidents?," Working Papers 2013-08, Colorado School of Mines, Division of Economics and Business.
    3. James E. Prieger, 2004. "An Empirical Investigation of Biased Survey Data and an Attempted Cure," Working Papers 44, University of California, Davis, Department of Economics.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • R41 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Transportation Economics - - - Transportation: Demand, Supply, and Congestion; Travel Time; Safety and Accidents; Transportation Noise


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