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  • Studies May Have Overestimated Cell Phone Crash Risk.

    Posted on December 13th, 2011 Edward A. Brutscher No comments

    Studies May Have Overestimated Cell Phone Crash Risk

    A new analysis of previous studies regarding crash risk due to cell phone use may have overestimated the risk a new report shows.

    “In the new report, Richard A. Young of Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit finds that two influential studies on the subject might have overestimated the risk.  The problem has to do with the studies’ methods.  Both studies — a 1997 study from Canada, and one done in Australia in 2005 — were “case-crossover” studies.  The researchers recruited people who had been in a crash, and then used their billing records to compare their cellphone use around the time of the crash with their cell use during the same time period the week before (called a “control window”).

    But the issue with that is that people may not have been driving during that entire control window.  Such “part-time” driving would necessarily cut the odds of having a crash (and possibly reduce people’s cell use) during the control window — and make it seem like cellphone use is a bigger crash risk than it is.

    If that information were applied to the two earlier studies, Young estimates, the crash risk tied to cellphone use would have been statistically insignificant.  That’s far lower than the studies’ original conclusions: that cellphone use while driving raises the risk of crashing four-fold.

    But that doesn’t mean you should feel free to chat and text away at the wheel, according to Fernando Wilson, an assistant professor at the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth.  A number of other studies, using designs other than case-crossover, have suggested that cellphone use — and particularly texting — is hazardous on the road, Wilson told Reuters Health.

    “In wider policy, I don’t think this study is going to change the conversation about distracted driving,” Wilson said. “Most of the conventional thinking is that we need to do something to reduce it.”

    According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about 450,000 Americans were injured in crashes linked to distracted driving in 2009. Another 5,500 were killed.”

    You can read the entire article here.