Researchers examining before and after cellphone records of people involved in car crashes found that cellphone conversations do not impact risk of a car crash.
The study will be published in the Jan. 2012 issue of journal Epidemiology.
Studies have pointed out that risk for cellphone conversations while driving affects driving control throughout the whole driving process.
"This false assumption makes it seem like cellphone conversation is a bigger crash risk than it really is,” said Richard Young, Ph.D., professor in Wayne State University’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral neuroscience in the School of Medicine.
Researchers using Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) data tracked the day-to-day driving of more than 400 drivers in a 100 day period. They found that cellphone conversations while driving were only one-fourth of what was claimed in many studies, or near the normal baseline for driving.
Researchers said an increased car crash risk linked to portable devices comes from tasks that require the driver to look at the device or operate it with their hands, such as texting.
"Tasks that take a driver's eyes off the road or hands off the steering wheel are what increase crash risk," said Young. "Texting, emailing, manual dialing and so forth — not conversation — are what increase the risk of crashes while driving," said Young.
The recent recommendation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) that all 50 states ban the use of cell phone for non-emergency goes beyond the data from newer studies, including the published study, said the researcher.
"Recent real-world studies show that cellphone conversations do not increase crash risk beyond that of normal driving — it is the visual-manual tasks that take the eyes off the road and the hands off the wheel that are the real risk," concluded Young.