TITLE: The CalWORKs Caseload in 1999 and 2005

AUTHOR: Caroline Danielson

PAGES: 22     DATE: September 2008

ABSTRACT: Has the rapid increase in mobile phone usage contributed to traffic fatalities in the United States? Does legislation requiring drivers to use hands-free technology while speaking on the phone have any effect on traffic fatalities? Using state-level panel data on mobile phone ownership, hands-free laws, and traffic fatalities, this paper finds that mobile phone ownership is associated with higher traffic fatalities, but only in bad weather or during wet road conditions. The limited experience of a few states suggests that hands-free laws do reduce traffic fatalities, but again only in bad weather or during wet road conditions, and possibly also in rush-hour traffic. The findings suggest that the benefits of hands-free laws depend on driving conditions, and an important policy implication is that hands-free laws should be more strongly enforced when driving conditions are more difficult.

These findings on hands-free laws differ from other research, which consistently finds that hands-free and hand-held phone usage have similar effects on driver distraction and accident risk, calling into question the usefulness of hands-free laws. Previous research has relied on retrospective surveys, laboratory simulations, and nonrepresentative driving histories, whereas this research examines the effects of actual policy changes on outcomes. One reason for these different results may be that drivers respond to hands-free laws in ways that cannot be observed in laboratory conditions or extrapolated from voluntary decisions to use hands-free technology.

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